Why People Need to be Aware of Liver Health, Get Tested for Hepatitis C


In a guest commentary, Thelma Thiel, RN, Cofounder of The Liver Health Initiative provides a personal perspective on her son’s liver issues and the importance of why everyone should get tested for HCV.

According to the CDC, all adults, pregnant women, and those with risk factors should get tested for Hepatitis C (HCV). The virus can silently attack the liver, a football sized organ. For many people who are not experiencing any pain or seeing any warning signs, they may question why they should take the time out to get tested for something they likely do not have.

For decades, people were getting sick after having blood transfusions and some developed cirrhosis, which was assumed to be the result of drinking too much alcohol. Following many years dedicated to searching for answers, MIchael Houghton, PhD, Nobel Laureate, discovered the hepatitis C virus that was invading people's bodies and attacking their liver and causing scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Houghton’s discovery was the first major step to control the spread of this disease as well as spark research for treatments and a cure for HCV.

My newborn son, Dean, was diagnosed with cirrhosis because something had destroyed the bile ducts in his liver. As a result of this problem, Dean's bones were very fragile leading to the fracture of both his hips and his tibia before he was 2 years old. One night he scratched his ear in his sleep and a tiny abrasion on his ear just kept bleeding. His liver could not create the essential clotting factors to stop the bleeding. He also formed a painful blood clot in his lungs because his liver could not process cholesterol. There were many other traumatic consequences of his cirrhosis.

Hepatitis viruses are like termites that eat away at the foundation of your house. These sneaky, invisible viruses attack and damage liver cells that are essential to our body's ability to function. The liver is your internal life creator and sustainer. Liver cells, called hepatocytes, are like the computer chips in your cell phone that need electricity to help them function. Your hepatocytes need healthy food to supply all the essential nutrients to perform the miracles that keep our bodies functioning.

HCV can invade the body unknowingly and multiply in the liver. This can cause cirrhosis or viruses in the blood. It can be transmitted to other people through shared needles, abrasions, or through unprotected sexual contact.

Get Tested, Get Treatment
An estimated 2.4 million Americans are living with active HCV infection, which is approximately a 1% HCV prevalence among the adult population in the US. According to a 2016 study, approximately 1 out of 2 people infected with HCV were unaware of their diagnosis.1

The federal government is making a concerted effort to get more people into the continuum of care for HCV, and here are some ways that everyone can take personal responsibility with regards to liver health:

  • Get tested for HCV to see if any of these viruses have been hiding in your system
  • If infected, get treated for HCV
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis B
  • Learn all you can about liver health and HCV

The Liver Health Initiative developed a coloring book, Olivia and Oliver: Meet Your Miraculous Liver, which was created in memory of Thiel’s infant son, Dean, who suffered every day for 4 traumatic, heartbreaking years.

1. Kowdley KV. Identification of People Infected With Hepatitis C Virus Who Have Never Been Diagnosed. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2019;15(12):669-671.

Related Videos
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.