Do you ever wonder what the second largest organ in your body actually does? Your liver is busy. It processes everything you eat and drink into energy (glycogen) and healthy nutrients. The liver cleans your blood by removing harmful substances, aids in clotting your blood when you are injured and metabolizes the medications you take. It also secretes bile that is important for your digestion. That’s what the liver does when it’s working correctly. However, when the liver becomes damaged (by a virus, disease or scarring) it swells, has less healthy tissue, and does not perform well.
Some conditions that affect the liver are Hepatitis (A, B, and C), cirrhosis and liver cancer. During the past few years, Hepatitis C in particular has received a lot of attention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has issued a recommendation that all Baby Boomers (defined as anyone born between the years 1945 to 1965) receive a one-time Hepatitis C test. This population has been targeted for several reasons. A significant number of Baby Boomers engaged in experimental drug use in the 1960s and 1970s. This fact is then coupled with an acknowledged lack of blood supply screening for all transfusions prior to 1992. In addition, military veterans who served in the Vietnam War have a high frequency of Hepatitis C due to potentially infected blood exposure. Finally, the Boomer generation, now in their late 40s to early 60s, may not realize they have been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus.
The CDC describes this virus as a “contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver.” An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection. But because you don’t look or feel sick, most people are unaware that they are infected. Someone can harbor the HCV for years or even decades without symptoms.
The American Liver Foundation encourages testing for Hepatitis C Virus-infected blood if you:
- Have ever injected or inhaled drugs (even once)
- Have received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Have received a clotting factor made before 1987
- Have ever been on hemodialysis
- Have had abnormal alanine aminotransferase (ALT levels) several times on blood test results
- Have ever worked or come in contact with infected needles or blood
- Have every worked or been housed in a prison
- Were born to a Hepatitis C Virus-infected mother
- Have HIV
- Have ever had unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Have ever had a sexually transmitted disease
- Have ever had tattoos or body piercings
Currently, treatment for chronic Hepatitis C may include taking the medications pegylated interferon and ribavirin and maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise and avoidance of alcohol and drugs. Your doctor may also suggest vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, as well as liver cancer screenings every 6-12 months. Most recently, research has uncovered hope in the form of a new medication with fewer side effects expected to become approved by the Food and Drug Administration this month.
Unfortunately, a diagnosis of Hepatitis C has served to stigmatize a number of infected persons. Shame, guilt and feeling as though others regard them as “untouchables” are just some of the psychological issues Hep C patients experience. Most people find it extremely helpful to talk with others living with Hepatitis C and liver disease. Attending a support group enables you to:
- Meet people who are experiencing similar issues
- Get valuable information and support
- Share your feelings, discuss handling medication side effects, talk about their favorite doctors, and share tips on how to cope
Research indicates that supports groups are beneficial to an individual’s health and well-being. Our group has been approved by the American Liver Foundation and is led by two staff counselors.
When: Second Monday of each month from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Positive Outlook Counseling (16610 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 210, Dallas, Texas 75248)
RSVP: Space is limited so please call and reserve your spot. 972-733-3988
Directions: Find us at the intersection of Dallas North Tollway and Westgrove in Bent Tree Plaza professional complex. You may park at the southernmost portion of the complex, next to the tall, white Regions Bank building.
Positive Outlook Counseling
Barbara Crowley, M.S., LPC-I
16610 North Dallas Parkway, Ste 2100
Dallas, TX 75248
Positive Outlook Counseling services range from individual counseling to family therapy to marriage counseling services. Barbara Crowley specializes in individual therapy for adolescents and adults.
Click Here To Book An Appointment Online