Hepatitis C … most people have probably heard of it, but may not know exactly what it is.
Dr. Diego Lopez de Castilla specializes in the prevention and treatment of infections and diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, and also focuses on tropical medicine and infection.
What is this disease and how does someone contract it?
Dr. Diego Lopez de Castilla: It’s estimated that 3.5 million Americans are living with Hepatitis C – an infection caused by a virus that attacks and inflames the liver.
Although up to 80 percent of patients with acute hepatitis C will not experience symptoms, if left untreated, it can lead to severe liver damage and even failure.
Signs can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, joint or muscle pain, and a yellowing of the eyes or skin.
For some, the social perception of being diagnosed with hepatitis C can be more damaging than the virus itself – how does this prevent people from returning to better health?
Dr. Lopez de Castilla: Because hepatitis C is spread through an infected person’s blood, there’s been a stigma associated with it that it is mostly contracted by frequent drug users.
However, patients can contract the disease from a range of sources – even if they’ve only encountered them once, decades ago.
Sources could include contaminated tattoo needles, having sexual relations with someone infected with Hep C, or receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992.
People born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely than other adults to be infected with hepatitis C, and we encourage them to get tested.
I emphasize openness and acceptance when treating patients from all backgrounds who are living with hepatitis C.
How does treatment work and is it effective?
Dr. Lopez de Castilla: There are a variety of antiviral treatments for patients with hepatitis C.
For most patients, hepatitis C can be cured in just eight to 12 weeks of treatment.
Researchers have made significant advances in treatment for hepatitis C using “direct-acting” antiviral medications, which are 90 percent effective in curing the disease and result in fewer side effects.
Where can you go to be tested?
Dr. Lopez de Castilla: The EvergreenHealth Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine practice is a service benefitting the Eastside community, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease and preparation for safe travel abroad.
We treat infectious disease ranging from viral infections like influenza and hepatitis to bacterial infections, such as staph, tuberculosis and post-surgical infections. We also have expertise in travel medicine, treating tropical diseases like malaria, typhoid fever and parasites.
Our goal is to partner with patients, using evidence-based approaches to identify the best individual treatment plans for them.
Visit our website at www.evergreenhealth.com/hepatitis-c or call 425.899.5100.
Dr. Diego Lopez de Castilla is board certified in Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine and is part of the team of expert providers at EvergreenHealth Infectious Disease Care in Kirkland, WA.
He specializes in the prevention and treatment of infections and diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, and also focuses on tropical medicine and infection.