DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband and I are in our 50s. Both of us had an exam this year from different doctors. Blood tests showed that we both have hepatitis C. Neither of us feels sick, and neither of us ever remembers acquiring this infection. Our doctors say we don’t need any treatment. What is the treatment if we ever do? Are we infectious to others? — K.K.
ANSWER: In Nor th America, hepatitis B and C are the two most common kinds of viral hepatitis. In the United States, about 1.25 million are infected with hepatitis B virus. Five percent of infected people go on to develop a chronic infection, one in which the virus remains in the liver, and these people face the possibility of coming down with liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. A vaccine for the prevention of hepatitis B is available.
Hepatitis C infects around 3 million Americans. In contrast with hepatitis B, around 70 percent to 80 percent will have a chronic infection. A sizable number will come down with liver cirrhosis or cancer, but that doesn’t happen right away. It takes 20 or more years before those complications arise.
When treatment of hepatitis C is advised, two medicines have been given simultaneously for many years. Those drugs are peginterferon and ribavirin. About 50 percent of chronic hepatitis C patients respond well to this regimen. However, blacks have a poorer response, with only 25 percent achieving viral suppression.
A true breakthrough has arrived in the treatment of hepatitis C. Two new drugs, telaprevir (Incivek) and boceprevir (Victrelis) have had a huge impact in improving treatment success. Either of these drugs, given in conjunction with the standard treatment of ribavirin and peginterferon, greatly increases the cure rates for blacks and whites.
An initial sickness after acquiring hepatitis C virus is rare, and, that’s why you and your husband didn’t realize you were infected. The virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions (no longer a threat), sharing needles for drug injections, rarely through sexual relations and household contact, but more possibly through promiscuous sex and in ways yet to be determined. You’re not a threat to others.
The booklet on hepatitis describes these infections and their treatment, not including the latest treatments. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No 503W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My brother cracks his knuckles. It gives me the shivers, and I know he does it to annoy me. Can you give me any information that will scare him, like coming down with arthritis? — L.C.
ANSWER: I’d love to give you some information that would stop your brother from cracking his knuckles. It bothers me, too. I can’t come up with any. It doesn’t cause arthritis.
To produce the cracking sound, a person pulls his finger in such a way that it creates a bubble in the joint fluid. Then the bubble bursts and makes a cracking noise when it does.
I can’t understand why people do this.
©2013 North America Synd.