If you're between ages 47 to 67, or fall into one of the previously listed high-risk categories, you should see your primary care doctor for a basic blood test to determine whether you have ever been infected with hepatitis C. This is a relatively inexpensive test and typically covered by health insurance under routine medical care. If you're not covered, the test will run $30 to $35.
If the test is negative, no further tests are needed. But, if the test is positive, you'll need another test called HCV RNA which will show whether the virus is still active. This test runs between $100 and $250 if you're not covered by insurance.
If you test positive, you have chronic hepatitis C and will need to talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you're infected, but have no liver damage, your doctor should monitor your liver at your annual physical.
The main treatments for chronic hepatitis C today are new antiviral medications that have a 75 percent cure rate. Your doctor may recommend a combination of these medications which are typically taken over a 24- to 48-week time period.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent hepatitis C, although studies are under way to develop one.
Savvy tips: For more information about testing and treatment for hepatitis C, along with a quick, online quiz you can take to determine your risks, see the CDC's website online at cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis. You can also get information by calling the toll-free HELP-4-HEP line at (877) 435-7443.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC's Today show, KFOR-TV and is author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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