Why Does Hepatitis C Go Undiagnosed?
Why does hepatitis C go undiagnosed? It would seem to me that a person who had a virus that was damaging their liver would know about it. Not in my case. How can a person who has a heavy-duty, life-threatening virus not know? Here is how I lived with Hepatitis C for 30 years or more, and never knew it until my liver failed.
Where are you in your treatment journey?
The silent killer
In the beginning, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is in the acute stage. Some patients will clear the virus, but most, like me, will go on to get full blown hep C. Tiny little cells in the liver become the target for the hepatitis C virus to breed. The body fights bac and tries to prevent them from replicating, but the immune system quickly adapts. Liver lab tests most likely remain unchanged and no one knows about the battle going on inside. I lived that way for years.
In my 30’s, I drank caffeine to keep moving. My menstrual cycle was not regular, and neither was my heart rate. I ran up medical bills with gynecologists, cardiologists, and endocrinologists, but no one had any answers. I looked like a hypochondriac.
By that time, HCV was well established in my liver. There was not a name for hepatitis C. In fact, the hospital I worked at in my early 20’s called it "Hepatitis Non A or B". They knew it was a liver virus, but had not identified it yet. And that is why hepatitis C grew inside of me undiagnosed.
Inflammation kicks in
Hepatitis C is an irritant to our body. When any part of our body is infected or irritated, it tries to heal. Chemicals from our white blood cells (WBC) flood in to protect and heal our liver. More WBC means more healthy nutrition to the wounded area. In my case, my liver got inflamed and stayed that way for years.
Hepatitis C is undiagnosed for years
Soon, a decade or more had gone by, and I had used a lot of tricks to disguise how poorly I felt. I ate healthy, exercised regularly, and read a lot of self-help books. Of course, that didn’t stop the virus from creating inflammation in my liver. Chronic liver disease was caused by the virus just doing its thing, breeding like crazy in my liver.
The liver is an organ that tries to heal itself. The problems is that by healing, it creates fibrous bands that becomes scar tissue, or cirrhosis. As long as the hep C was irritating, my body stayed inflamed – on the inside. On the outside, I eventually began to get bruises more easily, and my hair and skin became dry and brittle. It wasn’t until my body turned yellow and swelled up that I was forced to go to the emergency room. There, I finally learned that I had hepatitis C.
Why does hep C go undiagnosed?
Even my dear family doctor felt so guilty for not having noticed. The truth was, there were no changes in my lab tests until my liver failed. It was such a relief for me to be able to start treatment to get rid of hepatitis C. May of this year will be 9 years of freedom from the virus. During this time, I have let go of the years of being undiagnosed. Because we have a cure, there is not a lot of time for grieving. If you have lived undiagnosed, I hope you can join the ranks of us who have cured and moved into a hep C free future.