When most people think of those who are at a higher risk than others for , they may think of young people who share needles during drug use, have high-risk sex, or otherwise have lifestyles that put them in the way of some of the most common causes of Hepatitis C.
The truth is, there's another demographic of people who are at high risk that often goes unmentioned in conversations about Hep C: Older adults, specifically those who are over the age of 60.
There are a few reasons why older adults are at a higher risk for hep c infection. Here's what you need to know as an older adult about your risk factors, Hepatitis C causes, and treatment options:
Proper Hep C Testing Wasn’t Available Before 1992
One of the biggest reasons that older adults are at a higher risk for Hep C is that . This means that many people who could have been infected with the virus in the years before it was identified are now only just finding out about their infection.
If the following applies to you, you should consider being tested for Hep C:
- You had surgery before 1992 that may have required you receiving blood
- You received a blood transfusion before 1992
- You received an organ transplant before 1992
- You received dialysis before 1992
- You were in the military around the time of the Vietnam War or Korean War
Any of these factors could put you at risk for Hep C, and it's important to get tested as soon as possible so that if you test positive, you can begin treatment.
Your Immune System May Weaken With Age
As we age, our immune systems begin to weaken. This is a natural part of aging, and it occurs because the cells that make up our immune system become less effective over time. This weakening of the immune system puts older adults at a greater risk for contracting infections, and thus, they become more susceptible to diseases like chronic Hepatitis C.
Despite the fact that a weakening immune system is normal as we age, there are steps you can take to mitigate it, reducing your risk of Hep C should you become exposed. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are all great ways to keep your immune system functioning at its best.
Certain Conditions May Also Play a Role in Hep C
In addition to a weakened immune system, there are other conditions that may put older adults at a higher risk for Hepatitis C infection. Having a preexisting condition can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infection, particularly the if it is one of the following:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Use of certain medications (e.g., steroids)
Additionally, those who have undergone a transplant are also at an increased risk. This is because transplanted organs are often from donors with unknown Hepatitis C status. As a result, there is a higher chance that the organ could be infected with the virus.
Older adults who have chronic liver disease -- such as liver fibrosis, liver cancer, or liver failure -- are some of the highest-risk individuals for contracting Hepatitis C. This is because chronic liver disease can cause liver damage, making it more difficult for the organ to fight off infection. Hep C itself is a contagious liver disease, and there is only so much the liver can handle when a viral infection enters the mix.
What's more, these conditions are often comorbid, meaning that they often occur together. This further increases the risk for contracting Hepatitis C, or having serious complications of the disease.
Older Adults May Not Be Tested as Often for Hep C
One of the reasons why older adults may be at a higher risk for contracting Hepatitis C is that they are not tested for the disease as often as other groups. This is often due to a lack of awareness among both older adults and their healthcare providers about the risks associated with the disease.
As a result, many cases of Hepatitis C go undiagnosed and remain left untreated in older adults, which can lead to a host of other health problems down the road.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C in Adults Take Time to Present
One of the main reasons that older adults are at a higher risk for Hepatitis C is because the disease can take decades to develop into its more serious stages, meaning that someone who contracted Hep C in their 20s or 30s may only start showing symptoms in their 60s or 70s. This silent progression of the disease is one of the reasons why it's so important for older adults to be aware of their risk factors and get tested regularly.
Treatment Options Are Available
At , we offer online treatment for Hep C in PA and OH, giving older adults who've been diagnosed with Hep C convenient accessibility options to meet with a specialist and get started on the road to recovery.
Find Doctors to Treat Your Hepatitis C
Our makes it easy to get started receiving treatment from a Hep C doctor near you once you've tested positive. Just fill out , and one of our care coordinators will reach out to you to discuss your treatment plan judgment-free.