(NC) If you or someone you care about is between the ages of 41 and 71, you have increased risk for hepatitis C, a serious liver disease. Hepatitis C may not trigger any symptoms, but if left untreated it can cause liver cancer, scarring, and even death from liver failure. The good news is that the disease is curable. Read on to learn more about your risk.
Who’s at the greatest risk? Those born between 1945 and 1975, both here in Canada and abroad are up to five times more likely than those of any other age group to be affected. Yet just a quarter of these individuals have been tested for the virus, according to a new survey from the Canadian Liver Foundation, and only seven per cent are aware of their increased risk.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C? Symptoms often don’t appear until liver failure has developed, cautions Dr. Morris Sherman, a liver specialist. “If symptoms are experienced prior to liver failure, they are usually mild and may include fatigue, lethargy, nausea, reduced appetite, or mild abdominal pain,” he says. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) does not develop until liver failure sets in. If the virus does not disappear after six months, it becomes chronic, leading to progressive liver damage and more severe health problems over time.
If there are no symptoms, how do I know I have it? To find out if you have hepatitis C, you can take a simple blood test covered by all provincial health care plans.
“Although certain risk factors make hepatitis C more likely, often neither the doctor nor the patient recognizes them,” explains Sherman. “Therefore, the Canadian Liver Foundation suggests that all those in the most at-risk age group be tested at least once.”
Find more information and take a hepatitis risk questionnaire in English, French, or Chinese at www.liver.ca/couldyouhaveit.