About 3 million Americans are infected with chronic hepatitis C, many of whom may not know it. It is often referred to as a silent disease because – for many people – it can be in the body for decades without causing any symptoms.
Chronic hepatitis C is a potentially serious disease that can damage the liver over time and lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Cirrhosis is defined as a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and can’t function normally because healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue.
Of the six million veterans receiving care from the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) health care system in 2010, 165,005 had evidence of chronic hepatitis C infection. Most veterans with chronic hepatitis C being treated in the VA health care system in recent years were likely infected during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975).
Just because you don’t feel sick, it doesn’t mean that the virus isn’t doing damage to your liver. The more damage there is to the liver, the harder the virus is to treat. Chronic hepatitis C won’t go away on its own, so don’t wait to take action. Talk to your doctor if you are at risk.
Doing nothing is not an option. Take action today. Don’t wait.
Dr. Luis Balart
Veteran of the Medical Corps of the United States Naval Reserve and Gastroenterologist, Tulane University Medical Center