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Gastroenterology Blog

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, May 27, 2015 @ 1:38 PM

hepatitis in Baton RougeHepatitis is a word that means inflammation of the liver.  This inflammation can be caused by one of the five Hepatitis viruses or medications, like herbal supplements, over-the-counter meds, or antibiotics.  Determining the true cause of hepatitis can only be accomplished by consulting with a physician, preferably a gastroenteologist or hepatologist.

Hepatitis A,B, and C are the most common forms of the virus in the US.  Hepatitis A and B are both vaccinated against in the US and are not problematic for the general public here if vaccinations have been administered.  Hepatitis C currently does not have a vaccine, although there are current trials ongoing to test a potential Hepatitis C (HCV) vaccine for future implementation.

Hepatitis C in Baton Rouge

Hepatitis C has been a very expensive and uncomfortable disease to treat up until very recently.  There may be as many as 4 million people in the US with Hepatitis C.  Many people with the disease don't know that they have it until many years have passed and symptoms begin to present themselves.  75 % of the infected American population are individuals born between 1945 and 1960.  Definite identification of why this age group is so significantly predisposed to HCV is unknown.

Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus and a simple blood test can detect the virus.  Everyone in this Baby Boomer age group, anyone who ever received blood transfusions or organ donations before 1992, and anyone who has ever injected drugs should receive screening for Hepatitis C.

The Good News on Hepatitis C

A cure for Hepatitis C has been developed and is now on the market. There is a 90-95% success rate in curing Hepatitis C with these new drugs.  Two brands that have recently been FDA approved and launched in the US pharmaceuticals markets are Harvoni and Sovaldi

Dr Chris Christensen worked on the clinical trials of the new medications for treatment of Hepatitis C in Baton Rouge at Gastroenterology Associates.  He is eager to get all at-risk individuals tested and to get those that test positive for Hepatitis C on these new medications.  He discussed Hepatitis C and the treatments for Hepatitis Awareness Month with us.

Getting Tested

Gastroenterology Associates encourages everyone to get tested if you are a Baby Boomer or in one of the at-risk groups mentioned above.  It's easy to have blood drawn when you come in for your screening appointments. Simply ask your doctor to help you get screened for Hepatitis C.

 You should be screened (tested) for Hepatitis C if you:
  • were born between 1945 and 1960
  • received a blood transfusion or had surgery before 1992
  • illicit drug use by sharing needles or snorting cocaine
  • had a sexual contact with someone infected with hepatitis C
  • have hepatitis B or HIV
  • have unexplained elevation of liver enzymes

If it's time to schedule a consult, our team of board certified gastroenterologist are waiting to get you in as soon as possible.  Click the link below or call 225.927.1190 to schedule with our staff.

Schedule A Consultation Gastroenterology Associates

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Gastroenterologists, Hepatitis C

Hepatitis and Hepatitis C – The Facts

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 2:25 PM

hepatitis c treatments in Baton RougeHepatitis C (HCV) is a contagious liver disease that comes from being infected with the Hepatitis C virus. The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver.   The inflammation of the liver could be from many causes, such as viruses like hepatitis A, B or C being among them; other causes of inflammation can include medications such as antibiotics, over the counter medicines or herbal supplements, etc. If you have been told that you have “hepatitis”, it is important to let your physician do the necessary work up and identify the true cause for it.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease, caused by the hepatitis C virus, the most common blood-borne disease in the US, in fact.  HCV is spread when there is direct contact with an infected person's blood.  HCV can have similar symptoms to hepatitis A or B, but hepatitis C can actually lead to very severe symptoms, including chronic liver disease and even death.

 Hepatitis C is actually the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.  There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, as there are for hepatitis A and B, but research is underway in attempts to develop one.  Numerous treatment regimens are available and revolutionary new drugs have been proven to cure many that undergo treatment.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

In many cases, hepatitis C doesn’t cause symptoms, even for people who have been infected for a long time. But, for those who do demonstrate symptoms, they typically can include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Joint pain.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Sore muscles.
  • Dark urine.
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes, which may occur rarely at the time of infection, or sometimes during later stages of the disease.

Types Of Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis C virus can cause both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) infection which means that the severity of symptoms can vary between mild, weeks-long infection to a lifelong, serious battle with the repercussions of the virus. 

The less serious type of HCV infection, called acute, has symptoms that can range from asymptomatic (meaning that there are no outward signs of the infection) to very mild illness. It usually lasts 6 months or less.  Acute HCV is not typically associated with life-threatening characteristics of the more serious Chronic HCV infections.  The World Health Organization reports that, “About 15–25% of [acute HCV] infected persons spontaneously clear the virus within 6 months of infection without any treatment.”

However, majority of those infected with hepatitis C, about 75-85% of HCV infected individuals have the more serious chronic HCV infections.  Of these individuals with chronic HCV infection, the potential for further development of the illness into cirrhosis of the liver is 15–30% in a 20 year span.  Other serious liver issues that can be caused by hepatitis C are liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?

Hepatitis C is can be spread by:

  • Sharing of hypodermic needles.
  • Getting a tattoo or piercing with unsterilized needles.
  • Blood transfusions, particularly ones received before 1992 when it became standard to screen for hepatitis C in the donated blood.
  • Transmission from an infected mother to her newborn.
  • Sexual contact, although less common.

Hepatitis C factsThe Centers for Disease Control has new recommendations, as of August 16, 2012, for many in the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1945 and 1965, in the United States to get tested for hepatitis C.  The CDC estimates that the population born between 1945 and 1965 make up 75% of all hepatitis C cases despite only comprising 27% of the total population. Unfortunately, many of these individuals do not show symptoms and their illness goes untreated.  It is for this reason that hepatitis c health tests for Baby Boomers are recommended and that a patient receives subsequent treatment to prevent any further damage to the liver.

The team of doctors at Gastroenterology Associates would like to encourage everyone that is at risk or in the Baby Boomer age bracket to get tested for hepatitis C in Baton Rouge.  It can be done in conjunction with other wellness procedures, like your colonoscopy.  The physicians can also recommend treatment options for anyone who may discover that they are in fact positive for hepatitis C.  Contact us today for an appointment at 225.927.1190.

Schedule A Consultation Gastroenterology Associates

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.


Topics: Hepatitis C

Press Release: New Medication to CURE Hepatitis C

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 @ 12:14 PM

 Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Doctors in Louisiana are ready to start prescribed a revolutionary Hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, which has been proven to clinically cure up to 90% of cases of Hepatitis C in clinical trials.

cure for hepatitis C in Baton RougeNearly 4 million Americans are affected by Hepatitis C, which is most common in the Baby Boomer generation. The virus is even more prevalent in developing countries like India, Pakistan, China, and Egypt. Because Hepatitis C can be asymptomatic for years, many people are unaware that they are infected, and may remain unaware until serious symptoms develop.

Hepatitis C became widespread in the 1980s, when the virus infected blood supplies but was not yet detected. Now, it continues to be spread by sharing contaminated needles, and in rare cases by sharing contaminated manicure supplies and toothbrushes. It can also be contracted in health care settings if equipment is contaminated or needle stick injuries occur.

3 times as many people live with Hepatitis C as lived with HIV, and the virus is often deadly. Over a course of years or decades, the virus causes cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. It can be fatal without a liver transplant, and the effects are especially pronounced in patients who also have HIV.

There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, and traditional Hepatitis C treatments came with a long laundry list of common side effects and were neither as quick nor as effective as the new drug. The new Hepatitis C drug requires a 12-week regimen, and the majority of patients studied showed no traces of the virus or need for continued drug therapy.

The drug has been the subject of some controversy due to its cost, which sits at $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 per 12-week treatment cycle, but doctors say that the cost of the treatment is dwarfed by the lifetime cost of treating advanced Hepatitis C. In addition, insurance companies are likely to cover the cost of treatment after prior authorization.

A comprehensive approach to Hepatitis C treatment is recommended, especially now that early treatment is more effective. Preventative measures such as addiction treatment, needle exchanges, and blood donation screening will continue to reduce rates of the virus. Early detection is also essential, since the virus is more difficult to treat the more damage has been done.

Dr. Christopher J. Christensen, a gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Associates, was involved in developing Solvadi. Interested patients can call (225)  927-1190 for a consultation.

 Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Hepatitis C