The Liver Clinic at St. Barnabas Hospital, a subspecialty clinic in the department of Gastroenterology, was created over 15 years ago to treat patients with liver disorders. The most common reason patients are seen in this specialty clinic on Wednesday mornings is Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a chronic liver disease that can be contracted through contact with blood via intravenous drug use, intranasal cocaine use, blood transfusions before 1991, or were born between the years 1945 and 1965 (baby boomers). There are an estimated 3.5million Americans with this mostly silent disease. A one-time blood test is strongly encouraged if you were born between 1945 and 1965. In addition, if you have HIV, patients should be screened for Hepatitis C as they can be co-infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a chronic liver disease that over years can lead to scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis. It is the number one cause for liver transplants as well as liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). 25,000 Americans die each year from liver cancer. Because Hepatitis C is a mostly silent disease, up to 80 percent of people carrying the virus have no symptoms.
Recent advances in medication success rates can now cure up to 97 percent of patients who are treated. The medication is no longer an injection; it is in pill form and the side effects are minimal when compared to treatments available only a couple of years ago. Treatment can now cure this disease.
To protect your liver, ask your doctor about testing for Hepatitis C. In addition, avoid alcohol, maintain a healthy weight, and get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B.