Here are 10 essential facts you should know about hepatitis C:
1. Hepatitis C affects millions of Americans.
About 2.7 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “It is called the ‘silent epidemic’ because people can be infected for 30 or more years and have no idea they have it,” says Camilla Graham, MD, infectious disease specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Early on in a hepatitis C infection, you may feel nausea and fatigue – symptoms that don’t necessarily prompt doctors to test you for hepatitis C, she adds.
By the time routine blood tests reveal elevated enzymes, your liver may already be damaged. At that point your doctor may test your blood for the presence of the hepatitis C virus, says Ibrahim Hanouneh, MD, hepatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.