Hepatitis C – The silent plague
Most hepatitis C sufferers do not know they are infected. Since the symptoms of this chronic disease such as fatigue, exhaustion and diffuse upper abdominal discomfort are non-specific, they are often dismissed as insignificant and not pursued further. According to WHO estimates, in Germany there are up to 800.000 people infected with the hepatitis C virus. Of those, only about a quarter are diagnosed, and less than 5% receive the necessary antiviral therapy.
Family doctors play a key role in the diagnosis of hepatitis C. Statistically, there is an average of 10 hepatitis C patients per practice in Germany. If hepatitis C infection is detected and cured early, further infections can be prevented and late damage such as cirrhosis and liver cancer can be avoided.
If the transaminases (GPT) are even slightly elevated or if a patient describes unclear symptoms such as fatigue or diffuse upper abdominal complaints, viral hepatitis should always be considered. For patients without symptoms, it is also important to clarify possible risk factors. In the case of blood transfusions, dialysis or organ transplants that took place in the years before 1991, i. v. Drug abuse in the past or if originating from an endemic area such as z. B. Russia, it may be useful to perform an antibody test directly to rule out the diagnosis, because hepatitis C can also be present with normal transaminases.
If this antibody test is positive, the diagnosis must be confirmed. At this point, the general practitioner should immediately refer the patient to a specialist practice or therapy center for further clarification.
Early diagnosis ensures optimal chances of recovery
Today, hepatitis C patients have good chances of recovery, which are better the earlier therapy is started.
The hepatitis C therapy represents a challenge for the therapist and the patient, nevertheless the therapy is worthwhile. A cured patient does not pose a further risk of infection to those around him and demonstrably lives better.