How to Tell a Loved One You Have Hep C

Teri Addabbo | Dec 16th 2015 Sep 20th 2017

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Receiving a diagnosis of hepatitis C can be personally overwhelming.  The trials of undergoing medical tests, selecting the proper course of treatment, and choosing your medical team may be stressful. However there is room for optimism.  Hep C can be cured with recently developed oral medications. Keep that good news in mind when you share your diagnosis with friends and family.

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Sharing your hep C diagnosis

You may want to avoid sharing your diagnosis. The reasons vary, from not wanting to burden your friends and family to uneasiness about being labeled “sick”.  Now is the time to be open and it’s key to your health and well-being.  Be prepared with the facts of hep C.  Stay calm and be ready to answer their questions. Reassure them with the knowledge that hepatitis C can be cured.

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Explain the basics of hep C

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus is transmitted when the blood from a hepatitis C-infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. People who are diagnosed with chronic hep C may face serious complications, including cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.  Hep C is an insidious and relatievely silent disease - symptoms may take decades to appear.

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Demystifying hep C

Pinpointing the source of your hep C infection can be difficult. Before 1992, donated blood and organs weren’t screened for hep C.  Many became infected via blood transfusions or by organ transplants. Others may have worked in medical settings. Sharing needles for IV drug use can also spread the disease. The seriousness and timeline varies with each individual.  Focus on the steps needed to heal your liver.

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Is my household safe from hep C?

The chances of spreading hep C in a household are uncommon. Sharing food, drink, or eating utensils cannot infect you.  Hugging, kissing, holding hands and other casual contact is fine. To be on the safe side, don’t share toothbrushes and razors. If your family or friends are concerned, suggest that they take a simple hep C antibody test.

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The stigma of hep C

Most of us have read stories about the seamy side of hepatitis C.  Those stories don’t paint an accurate picture of the more than 3.5 million people infected with hepatitis C in the US.   Hep C can strike anyone including veterans, nurses, grandmothers, and regular everyday people. There is no shame in having hepatitis C. Connect with other patients and share your story.  There are many groups and websites dedicated to hepatitis C.

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What happens now

Ask your loved ones to be patient and supportive as you navigate the road to liver health.  Your loved ones can help by accompanying you to tests and doctor visits. Your doctor will advise you on the best course of treatment. Most importantly, there is a finally a cure for hep C. Studies suggest that some liver damage can be reversed.  Stay positive, hopeful and know that you are not alone.