Older Women Should Be Screened for Hepatitis C

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I’m taking a liberty in this sharepost to address a topic that is not about menopause, but does potentially impact women who have gone or who are going through this transition. That topic is hepatitis C, a viral disease that causes the liver to be inflamed.


    In a new press alert, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe hepatitis C as an unrecognized health crisis for the United States. One of every 30 baby boomers in the U.S. is believed to have been infected with this disease, but often is unaware of the infection. More than 15,000 Americans die each year from hepatitis-C related illnesses. The CDC reports that these deaths have been increasing steadily for more than a decide and may grow significantly in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the CDC is asking Americans who are in the Baby Boom generation to be tested for this disease.

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    Hepatitis C can be either acute or chronic. The CDC defines acute hepatitis C as “a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.” The center’s definition of chronic hepatitis C infection is “a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.” Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

    This disease is most commonly spread through sharing needles to inject drugs, but prior to 1992 the disease was spread through blood transfusions. (Since 1992, widespread screening of blood donations dropped due to precautions developed during the HIV outbreaks, according to a story by Jennifer Radcliffe of the Houston Chronicle.) The CDC notes that hepatitis C also can be spread to infants who are born to a mother with the disease. Less commonly, a person can contract hepatitis C through sharing personal care items, such as razors and toothbrushes, that may have come in contact with another persons’ blood or having sexual contact with someone who is infected.

    Symptoms of hepatitis C include:

    • Abdominal pain in the right upper abdomen
    • Abdominal swelling
    • Clay-colored or pale stools
    • Dark urine
    • Fatigue
    • Fever
    • Itching
    • Jaundice
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

    However, most people who have this disease do not have symptoms; in fact, only approximately 10 percent have jaundice of the skin that eventually gets better. “Because hepatitis C has few noticeable symptoms, many of those who are infected have no idea that the virus has been slowly damaging their lives,” said Dr. Bryce Smith, the lead health science of the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis. “Testing is the only way to identify the millions of Americans who have the virus and is the first step in stopping this epidemic in its tracks.” People who get hepatitis C develop a long-term infection that can permanently scar the liver, causing cirrhosis.

  • The testing for hepatitis C, which involves a one-time blood test, is recommended for anyone who was born between 1945 and 1965. The CDC estimates that a one-time test for this disease could identify more than 800,000 additional people who have the virus. Furthermore, newly available therapies can cure approximately 75 percent of infections and prevent liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases. Thus, 120,000 lives could be saved.

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    So follow the old adage that it's better to be safe than sorry and ask to be tested for this virus during your next appointment with your primary care physician.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Expanded hepatitis C testing recommended.

    Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Hepatitis C FAQs for the public.

    PubMed Health. (2011). Hepatitis C. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

    Radcliffe, J. (2012). CDC: Baby boomers need hepatitis C test. Houston Chronicle.

Published On: August 17, 2012