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An older woman sits on a couch looking out a window. The viewer can see that inside her, all her pain points in her joints, lymph nodes, heart, etc stem from her liver.

Aging & Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is known as the silent disease: Often times, the symptoms are not visible until extensive liver damage has occurred. Hepatitis C is common in people over the age of 55.

Understanding the dangers for people 55+

These are some important considerations for people who are 55 and older:

Missed diagnosis is a great danger of hep C. Standard yearly blood work from primary care physicians do not usually include hepatitis C. A blood test for hepatitis C is not done unless the patient specifically requests it, or the physician suspects a liver problem.

In the United States, widespread blood screening was not done prior to 1992. If someone received a blood transfusion prior to 1992, there is a possibility they could have received blood with hepatitis C. This resulted in a higher chance of hepatitis C transmission to blood transfusions and transplanted organs.

Similarly, lack of awareness and education about hepatitis C was not available until recent years. Patients were not aware of the facts on how hepatitis C is transmitted.

With hep C, there is a risk of developing extensive liver damage. Studies show that patients 55 and older who have had hepatitis C for an extended period have a greater chance of cirrhosis (severe liver scarring), and liver cancer.

Aging patients with hepatitis C may deal with complications and conditions associated with hepatitis C. Extrahepatic manifestations – such as diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, fatty liver, joint and muscle pain, hepatic encephalopathy, liver cancer, liver failure, and liver transplant – are more common in patients who are 55 and older.

Treatment options

Treatment for hepatitis C is determined by many factors, the patient’s liver condition (degree of liver damage), genotype (virus strain), viral load, and other medical conditions are considered.

There are a variety of treatment options for patients with all genotypes and liver damage. Treatment for hepatitis C only eliminates the virus and keeps further damage from occurring; Hep C treatment does not cure cirrhosis or cancer.

Managing liver damage

It’s important to note that the liver can regenerate new healthy liver tissue even from mild damage, but it cannot repair severe scarring as in cirrhosis or cancer.

Patients with cirrhosis will need to be closely monitored with blood work, ultrasound and endoscopies, and physical exams. They may need special medications to help with complications.

A specially balanced diet is also needed to ensure patients with liver damage get the right balance of nutrients suited for their specific condition. Consult with your liver specialist (hepatologist or gastroenterologist and registered dietitian) for your care and treatment. Early testing and treatment help avoid extensive liver damage.

Find out how to take care of yourself with hepatitis C – no matter what age – and move forward with treatment.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Angela pridmore
    4 months ago

    If possible I would like to hear about the struggles people have after being virus free . I had it for 35years and finally a cure .I still struggle . Thanks for all the information you guys give !

  • Connie Welch moderator author
    4 months ago

    Hi Angela,
    Post treatment struggles can be different for every patient. Recovery from treatment side effects like fatigue, slowly fades in recovery. If cirrhosis is present, struggles can be dealing with issues with diet, swelling, brain fog, and continued tests and risk of complications from cirrhosis. Some patients may deal with stomach issues for a while in recovery. What struggles are you having?

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