10 reasons why you should
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans have hepatitis C, the most common type of viral hepatitis in this country primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person—but many don’t know it. That’s because you can have the virus for years without having any symptoms. If you fall into any of these 10 risk groups, talk to your doctor about getting tested:
1. You’re a baby boomer. More than 75 percent of people with hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965, so you’re at higher risk of the disease if you were born during these years. Doctors believe this is because many baby boomers were exposed in the 1970s and 1980s—when rates of hepatitis C were highest.
2. You’ve injected drugs. Hepatitis C is spread from the blood of one infected person to another. This makes using needles a major risk factor. If you’ve injected drugs, get tested—even if you did it only once or it was many years ago.
3. You Have HIV or AIDS. About 25 percent of people with HIV/AIDS also are infected with hepatitis C. If you have HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C may damage your liver more quickly. This makes it even more important to get tested.
4. You’ve been exposed to blood at work. If you are a health-care worker and are accidentally stuck with a needle used on a person with hepatitis C, you’re at increased risk. You may also have a small risk if you’re exposed to blood in other ways, such as getting it splashed in your eyes. If you have any type of accident involving blood, get tested.
5. You had a blood or organ donation before 1992. Blood and organ donations were not screened for the hepatitis C virus until 1992. If you received a blood or organ donation before that year, you could be at risk.
6. You have liver disease. Hepatitis C may be the cause of your liver disease. It’s important to know so you can start the process for treatment, which can slow down or stop the damage to your liver.
7. You have an abnormal liver test. Many people learn they have hepatitis C from an abnormal liver function test. Though an abnormal test doesn’t always mean you have hepatitis C, it can be the cause.
8. You are on hemodialysis. There have been cases where hepatitis C was spread between patients in hemodialysis centers. The risk is small, but talk with your doctor about getting tested for hepatitis C if you’re on long-term hemodialysis.
9. You’ve been intimate with someone who has hepatitis C. Though it’s rare, hepatitis C can be spread through sex. The risk is low, but it’s elevated if you have HIV or another sexually transmitted infection. You risk may be increased if you have rough sex or multiple sexual partners.
10. Your mom had hepatitis C when you were born. If your mother was infected with hepatitis C when you were born, there’s a chance you may have it, too. While it’s not common for women to pass the virus to their babies, it is possible. Your risk also is higher if your mother had HIV at the time of your birth.