Why Seniors Have a Higher Risk of Getting Hepatitis C

Seniors are far more likely to get Hepatitis C due to a number of factors, such as a fragile immune system, a history of liver problems and being born between 1945 and 1965.

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In the United States, there are an estimated 3.9 million individuals living with Hepatitis C (HVC), and the good majority of them may still be unaware. Hepatitis C carriers may go decades before manifesting symptoms, by which time significant harm may already have been caused. For seniors, who account for approximately three quarters of all instances, getting tested regularly is crucial, it may save your life.

HVC is a viral infection that causes liver damage. It may progress to Cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer over time. Early stages of HVC often show little or no symptoms, that is until yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and extreme fatigue develop. Senior folk, especially men, who are diagnosed and receive therapy even after developing Cirrhosis, may still be cured using antiviral medications.

Seniors that are part of the baby boomer generation, that is everyone born between 1945 and 1965, are at the greatest risk of contracting Hepatitis C. According to scientific reports, Seniors born between these dates have a five fold increased risk of infection compared to people born later. Though the exact reason for these statistics isn’t clearly understood, one theory suggests that poorly sanitized medical equipment and a lack of checks on donated blood and organs during this period and even later may play a significant role.

Seniors Need to Be Screened Every Year for Hepatitis C to Catch the Early Signs and Receive Treatment

Chronic hepatitis C refers to an infection with the hepatitis C virus that persists over time. Typically, chronic hepatitis C is asymptomatic for many years, until the virus causes sufficient liver damage to manifest as symptoms of liver disease.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Bleeding easily

  • Bruising easily

  • Fatigue

  • Poor appetite

  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

  • Dark-colored urine

  • Itchy skin

  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen

  • Swelling in your legs

  • Weight loss

  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech

  • Spider like blood vessels on your skin

Every case of chronic hepatitis C begins with an acute phase. Acute hepatitis C is often misdiagnosed due to the rarity of its symptoms. Jaundice, combined with exhaustion, nausea, fever, and muscular pains, may be present when signs and symptoms are present. One to three months after exposure to the virus, acute symptoms manifest for two to three months. Acute hepatitis C infections may not usually progress to chronic disease. After the acute period of HCV infection, some individuals experience spontaneous viral elimination.

Seniors May be at a Higher Risk of Contracting Hepatitis C When Exposed to Contaminated Needles and Blood, Among Other Reasons

The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C infection (HCV). The illness spreads when infected blood enters the bloodstream of an uninfected individual. HCV appears in multiple unique forms, termed as genotypes, on a global scale.

More than 67 sub types and seven different HCV genotypes have been discovered. Type 1 is the most prevalent HCV genotype in the United States. Although chronic hepatitis C follows a similar course regardless of viral genotype, treatment recommendations differ based on viral genotype.

Common risk factors include:

  • Having ever injected illicit drugs

  • Having HIV

  • Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using dirty equipment

  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992

  • Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987

  • Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection

  • Were ever in prison

  • Were born between 1945 and 1965, the age group with the highest incidence of hepatitis C infection

Seniors Undergo a Variety of Blood Tests to Determine Whether They Have HVC, The Amount of the Virus in Their Blood and the Genotype

The US. Preventive Services Task Force advises that all persons aged 18 to 79, including those without symptoms or established liver disease, be examined for hepatitis C. When an initial blood test reveals hepatitis C infection, following blood testing will:

  • Determine the amount of hepatitis C virus in your blood (viral load)

  • Identify the virus’s genotype

For chronic hepatitis C, doctors often perform one or more of the following tests to evaluate liver damage:

Magnetic Resonance Elastography:

  • As a noninvasive alternative to a liver biopsy, Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE) combines magnetic resonance imaging technology with patterns created by sound waves rebounding off the liver to create a visual map of stiffness gradients inside the liver. Due to chronic hepatitis C, stiff liver tissue shows the existence of scarring of the liver (fibrosis).

Transient elastography:

  • Transient elastography, another noninvasive test, is a form of ultrasonography that emits vibrations into the liver and evaluates the speed at which they disperse across liver tissue to determine its stiffness.

Liver biopsy:

  • This procedure includes inserting a tiny needle into the abdominal wall under ultrasound guidance to extract a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing.

Blood tests:

  • A set of blood tests may determine the severity of liver fibrosis.

Hepatitis C Infection is Treated With Antiviral Medications Intended to Eradicate the Virus From the Body

The objective of treatment is to have no detectable hepatitis C virus in the body at least 12 weeks following completion of therapy. Recent advancements in the treatment of hepatitis C using new, targeted antiviral drugs, often in conjunction with current drugs, have been developed by scientists. As a consequence, patients report improved results, fewer side effects, and shorter treatment duration, in some cases as little as eight weeks. The selection of drugs and duration of therapy are contingent on the hepatitis C genotype, the existence of preexisting liver damage, other medical problems, and previous therapies.

As a result of the high speed of scientific discovery, recommendations for drugs and treatment regimens are evolving quickly. Therefore, you should explore your treatment choices with a physician. Your care team will monitor your reaction to drugs throughout your therapy.

Transplantation of the liver:

Liver transplantation may be an option for elderly patients with chronic hepatitis C infection who develop severe consequences. During liver transplantation, your diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver. A limited fraction of transplanted livers originate from living donors who have donated a part of their livers.

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