Hepatitis C can cause serious life-threatening liver disease or cancer, but many people infected with the virus don't know they have it. It's important to be diagnosed because the sooner you get treatment, the better.
This is a good doctor appointment for 52-year-old Brenda Faulds. The Sioux Falls woman just found out that she no longer has hepatitis C.
"It's gone," Faulds said.
But Faulds says her diagnosis was no laughing matter. She tested positive for hepatitis C after suffering from fatigue, headaches and shortness of breath.
"When they told me my liver enzymes were elevated, I was like, 'What? How can that be?' I don't even drink. That was the first thing that came to mind," Faulds said.
Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person.
"If we leave the virus alone, it could lead to liver failure, liver cancer and death basically," Hepatologist and Avera Center for Liver Disease Medical Director Dr. Hesham Elgouhari said.
Faulds is definitely not alone. One in 30 baby boomers is infected with the virus, and many don't know it. That's why it's important to get tested.
"I think all baby boomers should be tested," Faulds said.
The earlier you get diagnosed, often the better your outcome. You can also be cured just by using new oral medication.
"The treatment is shorter, more effective and less side effects," Elgouhari said.
Fewer patients are having to undergo injections that can have dangerous side effects.
"Depression, blood counts going down," Elgouhari said.
"According to the old treatment, the new treatment is a lot quicker because the old treatment is six to 12 months, and the new treatment is only three months," Faulds said.
After just a few months of medication, Faulds says she feels great and is back to her regular routine.
"Working full-time," Faulds said.