Durham VA Health Care System
Liver Clinic Helps Veterans Learn to Live
Since Hepatitis C was first identified in 1989, over 3 million Americans and 170 million people worldwide have been infected. Unlike Hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. Symptoms of Hepatitis C are often mild, making the virus notoriously difficult to detect. Over time, if untreated, Hepatitis can cause major liver damage, including cirrhosis or fibrosis of the liver.
What is Hepatitis? Hepatitis is essentially an inflamed, or swollen, liver. The liver is responsible for getting rid of any toxins in your body, such as alcohol, and processing other liquids. Much like a filter, the liver helps to remove wastes from your body. If you have the virus that causes Hepatitis, it can impair your liver’s ability to function properly over time.
Having Hepatitis C does not mean a death sentence. There are treatments available and many people with Hepatitis C live long and fruitful lives.
It all starts with getting tested. In fact, the Center for Disease Control recommends anyone born before 1965 get a test. Veterans can receive this test by request via their Primary Care Physician.
If you are a Veteran diagnosed with Hepatitis, the next step is to visit the VA Liver Clinic. From there, you will learn to understand this disease better, available treatment options, how to manage it, and helping to prevent its spread. There are many myths about Hepatitis, and the staff at VA Liver Clinic will help you to separate fact from fiction.
One of these staff members is Colleen Boatright, MSN, RN. She is the primary contact at the Liver Clinic and is responsible for providing diagnosed Veterans with helpful information about Hepatitis, as well as other types of liver disease. In addition, she conducts a brief seminar that not only educates Veterans about Hepatitis, but also gives them hope.
Said one Veteran who attended the seminar, “I’m glad to be informed, as I had no idea I was positive.”
One of biggest challenges in dealing with Hepatitis is diagnosing people who have it. “Hepatitis is an elusive disease in that it often doesn’t have any discernable symptoms associated with it. People can live years with Hepatitis and not even know they have it”, says Boatright.
Boatright explains further. “The liver often does its job a little too well and doesn’t tell us when there is a problem. That’s why I encourage our Veterans to contact their primary care physician and get tested.”
For more information, please visit the VA Hepatitis C Website at http://hepatitis.va.gov.