Dr. D’s Medical Update
Welcome to Summer 2021! This summer is looking much different from a year ago. We are still dealing with COVID-19, but the situation is better in San Antonio. Concern for the Delta variant is real, but there is good news that the approved vaccines are effective against this new variant. We continue to encourage everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine. I’m happy to report that all of the staff of our Holy Cross clinic have been vaccinated.
For the month of July, the official health observances are Healthy Vision Month and World Hepatitis Day. We’ll spend some time talking about these important issues.
In the patients we serve, diabetic eye disease is a big concern. We refer all of our diabetic patients for eye exams on a once a year or every other year cycle. Diabetes can affect vision whether the condition is controlled or not. Obviously, poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk. Seeing an ophthalmologist on a routine basis allows us to identify abnormalities and have patients treated before vision is lost. These exams can also identify other conditions that can affect vision, things like glaucoma can be managed and the risks minimized if caught early. As we age, cataracts become an issue. They are when the lens of our eyes become cloudy. This can affect night vision and vision in general. The procedure to remove them is relatively simple and can help maintain a person’s vision. Speak with your primary care physician to be referred an ophthalmologist or optometrist to maintain your eye health.
I have written in past years about World Hepatitis Day. As a reminder, there are multiple types of hepatitis infection, but I am going to address the most serious types, which are hepatitis B and C. Both are viral infections that are passed through blood and body fluids, but there are some significant differences.
Hepatitis B is preventable by vaccination. Adults who weren’t vaccinated as children can be vaccinated with a series of 3 injections. At this time, those at highest risk are encouraged to be vaccinated. High risk includes healthcare workers, close contacts of people infected with hepatitis B, travelers to high-risk areas, IV drug users and prison populations.
Most concerning, in the population we serve, is hepatitis C. Hepatitis C was discovered after hepatitis B and screening began much later. At this time, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The current recommendation is that people born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened for hepatitis C. Like B, it is transmitted by blood and body fluids. Often in my career, I’ve diagnosed hepatitis C in patients who have no risk factors for the disease.
There is treatment that is 90-95% effective depending on the type of hepatitis C a patient is carrying. Currently, I have a few patients who have been successfully treated for hepatitis C. They view it as lifesaving and life changing. It is important to know that not all patients infected with hepatitis C continue to carry the virus or even have effects from the disease. That said, the risk is high enough that screening is recommended and further evaluation should be done to completely define a patient’s risk.
As always, if you have questions about the topics in this article, reach out to your HealthTexas physician for more information.