Self-infusion sounds innocuous enough until you consider the reality:
For people living with hemophilia, mastering the skill is a major milestone on the path to independent living, one of many challenges that come with managing a disease in which blood doesn’t clot correctly.
Those challenges can be daunting on their own.
But many people living with hemophilia today are also dealing with complications from another disease: hepatitis C, an often-chronic infection that if left untreated can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
There’s no biological reason the two should occur together. The fact that they do is a result of standard treatment practices for hemophilia before testing for hepatitis C began in the late 20th century and procedures were developed to inactivate it in blood products
It was only earlier in the same century, in fact, that researchers had discovered that hepatitis was caused by viruses, eventually separating them into distinctive types including A and B.
The existence of hepatitis C wasn’t even theorized before the mid-1970s, and it wasn’t identified until 1989, so blood and blood products used by
As a result, studies have shown
Hepatitis C Infection
The virus, transmitted primarily through exposure to infected blood, initially causes a silent infection in most patients, with only 20
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing in the skin or eyes)
A small number of people infected with HCV, about 25
Most are not, however, and because acute infection so often occurs without symptoms, they rarely seek diagnosis or treatment that could reduce the risk of a long-term, or chronic, infection.
The noticeable effects vary widely. Because liver disease progresses slowly, some people with chronic
The disease may progress more rapidly, however, in patients who are older, drink alcohol
Getting Tested for Hepatitis C
You should talk to your doctor about hepatitis C testing if any of the following apply to you, the CDC says:
- You were born from 1945 through 1965.
- You’ve taken drugs by injection, even if you did so only once or many years ago.
- You were treated for a blood-clotting problem before 1987.
- You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
- You’re on long-term hemodialysis treatment.
- You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
- You work in healthcare or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needlestick or other injury with a sharp object.
- You’re infected with HIV.
How Hepatitis C Affects People with Hemophilia
As with any chronic illness, the more variables that exist, the more complicated managing it becomes.
For starters, research has shown that just 10
But the outlook is improving. While earlier, interferon-based treatments for hepatitis C proved effective only about half the time, newer direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medicines cure over 90
The treatments, which usually involve two to three months of pills, have proven as effective for people with hemophilia as for those without the disease, according to studies.
Hepatitis C Self-Care
While the CDC recommends universal treatment with direct-acting antivirals for hepatitis C patients, the agency says few people receive it within a year of diagnosis.
Getting treated early is essential to preventing cancer and severe liver disease as well as reducing transmission, the agency adds. More than 2 million adults in the U.S. have the disease, and infections are rising.
The CDC also advises people living with chronic hepatitis C — and those for whom the disease has led to cirrhosis, advanced and extensive scarring of the liver that can keep it from working correctly — to arrange regular monitoring by a doctor to identify and treat possible complications including liver cancer.
Other recommendations include:
- Obtaining vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
- Avoiding alcohol, which can further damage the liver.
- Checking with your doctor before taking any prescription pills, herbs, supplements
,and over-the-counter medications because they can potentially damage the liver.
- Getting tested for HIV, since people who have both HIV and HCV are more likely to develop cirrhosis.
- Getting a flu shot every year.
- Avoiding raw oysters, since they may carry a germ that can cause a fatal blood infection in people with liver disease.
- Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Avoiding strong chemicals such as weed killers and paint thinners, since inhalation and absorption through the skin may cause liver damage.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Exercising regularly.