We all have more health concerns as we age. Unfortunately, health concerns are part of getting older. One growing health concern for boomers is Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a more serious concern for Baby Boomers than most people realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that three quarters of American adults with Hepatitis C are Baby Boomers. In fact, Baby Boomers are five times more likely to be infected with Hep C than any other segment of adults.
Let’s take a look at Hepatitis C and why it’s such an issue for the Baby Boomer generation.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus which is transmitted through the blood. It acts on the cells of the liver, and as such, usually results in liver damage.
The virus prevents the liver from carrying out its normal functions and leads to damage including cirrhosis. That’s why Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. There is also a link between Hepatitis C and cancer.
Why Baby Boomers Are At Risk From Hepatitis C
Baby Boomers (people born from 1945 – 1965) are especially at risk from Hepatitis C. There are several reasons for this:
• Rates of transmission of the virus were at their highest in the 1960s through 1980s, when most Baby Boomers were in their 20s and 30s.
• Universal precautions and infection control procedures hadn’t been adopted back then, which made the risk of infection much higher.
• The virus wasn’t eliminated from blood and blood products used in transfusions and medical procedures until 1992, meaning that anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, or clotting factor concentrates before 1986, are at a higher risk.
Other risk factors include sharing needles for recreational drug use, long term hemodialysis, a diagnosis of HIV, or having been exposed to a needle stick injury.
Why It’s Important to Get Tested for Hepatitis C
It’s possible to live with Hepatitis C for a long time without any symptoms. The virus does cause some symptoms (fatigue, nausea, appetite loss, vomiting, abdominal pain and slight fever) but these don’t always show up, or don’t show up for a long time.
That means that if you don’t get tested, you could be living with the virus without knowing it. Left untreated, the virus will do even more damage to your liver. There is also the risk of spreading it to other people.
The CDC recommends that all baby boomers talk to their doctor about getting screened, even if you’re not in an at-risk category or don’t think you could have been exposed to the virus.
The test for Hepatitis C is a simple blood test and the results should be returned be returned to you fairly quickly.
What Happens If You Get A Positive Result?
If you get a positive result, you will be referred to a specialist who can discuss your treatment options with you and help you make some simple lifestyle adjustments that will make it easier to live with the virus.
The current treatment for Hepatitis C is a combination of two medicines: Pegylated interferon and ribavirin. There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to ease the strain on your liver, including cutting out alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress. There are also charities and support groups available for Hep C sufferers.
The thought of having Hepatitis C is a frightening one, but it’s important to get screened. Getting tested means that if you do have the virus you can access treatment and take steps to look after your liver so you can continue to live a full life.