According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 300 million people across the globe are unaware they’re living with viral hepatitis. Unlike other types of hepatitis, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Many people don’t know how or when they were infected, and once can live decades without symptoms
If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver, which slows down blood flow that’s crucial for liver function. By the time symptoms appear, the damage is usually advanced. That’s why testing is so important.
In addition to causing scarring (cirrhosis), two out of every three liver cancers are caused by hepatitis.
The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is a blood test, called a hepatitis C antibody test. The test looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. Once someone is infected, there will always be antibodies in their blood.
For decades, the most common treatment for hepatitis C was a series of painful shots, sometimes year-long process with chemo-like side effects. Treatment for hepatitis C is now on the cutting-edge of medicine. It’s curable and the treatments are highly effective and in most cases, are accomplished in 8-12 weeks. These new medications are called direct-acting antivirals that attack the virus head on.
Each medication is different, but they remove all traces of the virus from blood within three months. This is called sustained virologic response, and it’s what doctors look for to tell if one is cured.