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Wear The Gown: The risks and symptoms of Hepatitis C

Anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested

SAN ANTONIO — More than three million people in the U.S. are living with Hepatitis C which can be a life-threatening disease. The good news is, there is a cure.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection. "It can be transmitted through sex, through use of contaminated needles," said Clarissa Carvalho, a family nurse practitioner with University Health System. She says there is no vaccine for the disease but a blood test for the illness could save your life. Carvalho told us, "If it goes untreated you can have a hepatocellular carcinoma which is liver cancer. You can have cirrhosis of the liver which is the liver actually failing work."

Some of the symptoms of Hepatitis C could include bleeding and bruising easily, fatigue, itchy skin and yellow discoloration of the skin, dark-colored urine, fluid buildup in the abdomen and swelling of the legs, and confusion or drowsiness. Carvalho added, "Sometimes you can have absolutely no symptoms. You may not even know you have hepatitis C unless you are checked for it."

If you are a baby boomer, meaning you were born between the years 1945 and 1965, you have a five times greater chance of having Hepatitis C. In fact, three out of every four people with Hepatitis C were born during those two decades. Carvalho also told us, "After 1965 we were using more disposable needles, being more stringent with universal precautions for infection control, so the chance of blood-borne infection were less."

If you test positive for Hepatitis C to cure it all you do is take is one pill a day for a maximum of 12 weeks. "Most patients say it's just like taking any other medication," said Carvalho.

For more information about family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.

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