Chronic Hepatitis C

Chronic hepatitis C is an infection that affects over 4 million Americans, many who are unaware they are infected.  With exposure, it is believed 80% will go on to have chronic disease.  Individuals at risk for infection include those who have had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, have a tattoo, have done IV drugs or cocaine in the past, or those who practice anal sex. Though there are 6 genotypes of hepatitis C, type 1-most common, type 2 and 3 represent nearly all the infections in the United States.

 About 20% - 30 % of hepatitis C affected individuals over 20-30 years will go on to develop cirrhosis.  Once cirrhosis develops, individuals have about an 8% per year chance of primary liver cancer or end-stage liver disease (fluid in the belly, confusion, or bleeding from large veins within the esophagus). Drinking alcohol excessively or smoking may increase these percentages.  The importance of halting the progression of inflammation and thus continued liver damage is therefore of the upmost importance.

Previous treatment for chronic hepatitis C yielded dismal prospects for cure.  Previously, all regimens for treatment of hepatitis C included an injectable medicine called interferon, given weekly. Serious side effects, frequent blood work and follow-up appointments made the treatment tough to bear, but most were able to endure the treatment to the end. For those who did, a 60-70% chance of cure could be expected.

Now, newer treatment agents are available that avoid the use of interferon entirely,  with a cure rate approaching over 95%! Treatment for hepatitis C is now easier, more tolerable, shorter, and with a high chance of eradicating the virus permanently. Newer drugs are continuing to be developed and approved, with a new agents being introduced to the market every several months.   The chances for cur are now near 100% without significant side effects.  The long term hope of eliminating interferon is now realized.

Even if you were treated previously for chronic hepatitis C, you may be a candidate for re-treatment if cure was not obtained in your first go round. Currently, all baby boomers are recommended by the CDC to have a one -time screening hepatitis C antibody evaluation, even if your liver test are normal as infection is still possible.

Texarkana Gastroenterology Consultants is the largest provider of gastroenterology services in the area.  All of our physicians are board certified gastroenterologist and experienced in treating chronic hepatitis C.  Referrals are not required for an appointment.

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