Statistics reveal that about 300 million people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis C virus. At Digestive and Liver Center of Florida, Dr. Srinivas Seela, MD, a Yale University School of Medicine fellowship trained gastroenterology and hepatology specialist, and his staff have devoted a portion of their practice to diagnose and treat patients with the chronic liver disease, even going as far to create a hepatitis C support group for patients.
Below are some of the more common questions Dr. Seela hears from new patients at the practice’s Lake Underhill and downtown offices.
1. What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Most people with hepatitis C don’t have any symptoms, actually. Some people, however, can have mild symptoms soon after being infected. These symptoms include jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes/skin), fatigue, muscle aches and dark urine, among others. Usually these symptoms go away without any treatment.
2. Should I get tested?
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus, which means that it is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.
Some common causes for contracting hepatitis C include: use of a needle to inject drugs; receiving a blood transfusion before 1992; long-term kidney dialysis; being born from a mother who had hepatitis C; having a sexual partner with hepatitis C or being a Vietnam-era Veteran.
There are numerous other risk factors that may lead to a positive hepatitis C diagnosis, so if you feel concerned at all, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible.
There are several misconceptions about how the disease can spread. You cannot get hepatitis C from being coughed or sneezed on, donating blood, breast-feeding, kissing someone with the virus or sharing utensils, contrary to what some may say.
3. Is there a cure for hepatitis C?
Doctors prefer not to use the word “cure,” but if treatment is successful, the virus will no longer be found in the bloodstream, and it is believed that the risk of future liver problems is reduced.
4. What are my treatment options?
If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, treatments against the virus are aimed at doing 3 things: removing the virus from your body, slowing down or stopping damage to your liver and making you feel better.
Right now, the treatment for hepatitis C, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, consists of a two-drug regimen (called “combination” therapy) designed to increases the amount of interferon in your body while increasing the body’s ability to fight certain viruses.
Depending on specific factors, patients have anywhere from a 20 to 80 percent chance of having hepatitis C removed from their bodies.
5. How long does treatment last?
In general, standard combination therapy lasts between 24 and 48 weeks, with 6 months of follow-up after treatment has ended. Sometimes, if the treatment is not working, or if you have too many side effects, your doctor may stop your treatment early.
You can help keep your liver healthy by eating well, drinking lots of water, and avoiding substances that can harm your liver – such as alcohol and illegal drugs.
6. What are the long-term effects?
More than half of people with hepatitis C will never have any health problems from it. The disease generally progresses slowly, over the course of 10 to 40 years.
Looking for more information?
If you want to know more about hepatitis C or any of the services offered at Digestive and Liver Center of Florida, contact their office today to find out how they can help you live a happier, healthier life.
7975 Lake Underhill Rd., Ste. 360 – Orlando, FL 32822
3000 N. Orange Ave., Suite D – Orlando, FL 32804
407.384.7388 – www.DLCFL.com