Who Should Get Tested
You should consider getting tested for hepatitis C if you’re worried you could have been infected or you fall into one of the groups at an increased risk of being infected.
- Hepatitis C often has no symptoms, so you may still be infected if you feel healthy.
- The following groups of people are at an increased risk of hepatitis C:
- ex-drug users and current drug users, particularly users of injected drugs
- people who received blood transfusions before September 1991
- recipients of organ or tissue transplants before 1992
- people who have lived or had medical treatment in an area where hepatitis C is common high risk areas include North Africa, the Middle East and Central and East Asia
- babies and children whose mothers have hepatitis C
- anyone accidentally exposed to the virus, such as health workers
- people who have received a tattoo or piercing where equipment may not have been properly sterilised
- sexual partners of people with hepatitis C
If you continue to engage in high-risk activities, such as injecting drugs frequently, regular testing may be recommended. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
Why Does The Genotype Of The Virus Matter
If youve been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, your doctor will order blood tests to learn which subtype of virus is causing the infection.
There are six main genotypes of hepatitis C. These genotypes differ from one another at a genetic level. Some genotypes of the virus are more resistant to certain types of medication, compared to others. The virus can also mutate in ways that make it more resistant to treatment.
Your recommended treatment plan will depend in part on the specific strain of hepatitis C thats causing your condition. Your doctor can explain how it might affect your treatment options and long-term outlook.
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How Does Harvoni Work
Hepatitis means inflamed liver. After 6 months, itâs called âchronicâ and in some cases may eventually lead to heavy scarring of the liver . The hepatitis C virus spreads most commonly through needles shared by drug users, but sexual contact can also pass it on.
Harvoni is a combination of two drugs. Each one blocks a protein that the hep c virus needs in order to grow:
- Ledipasvir blocks a protein called NS5A.
- Sofosbuvir blocks an enzyme called NS5B RNA-dependent RNA polymerase.
Is Harvoni A Cure For Hepatitis C
The word âcureâ has a very specific meaning for hepatitis C. It means there is no virus in your blood 12 weeks after your treatment is over. The cure rate for Harvoni is 94% to 99% when you donât have other serious illnesses.
Harvoni might not work as well if:
- You have advanced liver disease.
- Your liver has some scarring .
- Youâve had treatment for hep C before and it didn’t work.
- You donât take your pills as prescribed.
In many cases, your doctor can adjust your dose and length of your treatment if Harvoni isn’t working well for you. In some treatment plans, Harvoni may team with another drug called ribavirin .
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Diagnosis Of Hepatitis C
If you are at risk of hepatitis C infection, or think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the past, see your doctor for an assessment of your liver health. This will include blood tests and possibly a non-invasive test for liver damage .
There are 2 blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis C. Usually these can be done at the same time but sometimes they will be done separately.
The first test known as a hepatitis C antibody test can tell you whether you have ever been exposed to hepatitis C.
It may take 2 to 3 months from the time of infection until a blood test can detect antibodies to hepatitis C, so there is a window period during which you cannot tell if you are or have been infected. In this time, take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The second test is called hepatitis C PCR, which will be done if the antibody test is positive. This determines if the virus is still present in your blood or liver or if you have already cleared the infection.
If you have cleared the virus or had successful treatment to cure it, the PCR test will be negative.
A liver ultrasound or Fibroscan can also be performed to assess if you have any liver damage.
If your doctor is inexperienced in diagnosing hepatitis C you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
Can A Transplant Cure Hepatitis C
If you develop chronic hepatitis C and it leads to liver cancer or liver failure, you may need a liver transplant. Hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for a liver transplant.
A liver transplant removes a damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy one. However, theres a high likelihood that the hepatitis C virus will be transmitted to the new liver in time.
The virus lives in your bloodstream, not just your liver. Removing your liver wont cure the disease.
If you have active hepatitis C, continued damage to your new liver is very likely, especially if hepatitis C remains untreated.
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Hepatitis C And Blood Spills
When cleaning and removing blood spills, use standard infection control precautions at all times:
- Cover any cuts or wounds with a waterproof dressing.
- Wear single-use gloves and use paper towel to mop up blood spills.
- Clean the area with warm water and detergent, then rinse and dry.
- Place used gloves and paper towels into a plastic bag, then seal and dispose of them in a rubbish bin.
- Wash your hands in warm, soapy water then dry them thoroughly.
- Put bloodstained tissues, sanitary towels or dressings in a plastic bag before throwing them away.
Preventing The Spread Of Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine available to prevent a person from being infected with hepatitis C. Recommended behaviours to prevent the spread of the virus include:
- Always use sterile injecting equipment. This can be accessed from your local needle and syringe program service.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail files or nail scissors, which can draw blood.
- If you are involved in body piercing, tattooing, electrolysis or acupuncture, always ensure that any instrument that pierces the skin is either single use or has been cleaned, disinfected and sterilised since it was last used.
- If you are a healthcare worker, follow standard precautions at all times.
- Wherever possible, wear single-use gloves if you give someone first aid or clean up blood or body fluids.
- Although hepatitis C is not generally considered to be a sexually transmissible infection in Australia, you may wish to consider safe sex practices if blood is going to be present, or if your partner has HIV infection. You may wish to further discuss this issue and personal risks with your doctor.
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You May Still Have Liver Damage
If you had high levels of liver damage before you started treatment, you may still have an increased risk of liver cancer after the infection has been cured, says Menon.
To assess liver damage, your doctor will perform a biopsy or a scan either before or after treatment. If theres no scarring, you probably wont need long-term follow-up.
If you have cirrhosis or advanced fibrosis , however, you may need to be followed over the long-term, potentially for the rest of your life. The reason: Your doctor will want to be sure your liver is functioning properly and look for signs of liver cancer. Your liver function can deteriorate to the point where you need a transplant, says Menon.
There is some evidence that new treatments may improve scarring but its too early yet to be sure. The drugs are very new, so its hard to say one way or another, says Menon.
Medical Treatment For Hepatitis A B & C
Treatment for hepatitis A, B, or C is based on which type of hepatitis is present in the bloodstream and the severity of the resulting liver damage. Depending on the results of diagnostic tests, our specialists at NYU Langone may recommend antiviral medication to stop the virus from replicating and protect your liver from further damage.
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How Effective Is Treatment
Direct-acting antivirals cure 9 out of 10 patients with hepatitis C.
Successful treatment does not give you any protection against another hepatitis C infection. You can still catch it again.
There’s no vaccine for hepatitis C.
If treatment does not work, it may be repeated, extended, or a different combination of medicines may be tried.
Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people with an acute hepatitis C infection may have symptoms within 1 to 3 months after they are exposed to the virus. These symptoms may include
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you most likely will have no symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
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Are There Any Downsides To Treatment
The antiviral treatments for hepatitis C are usually very successful, but that doesnt mean they are always effective, and there is a lack of research on the long-term outlook of the treatment.
For example, a small 2019 study found that you could develop an occult infection of hepatitis C many years after curing the condition, but it did not lead to serious liver conditions. An occult infection of hepatitis C is an infection that develops when the RNA of the virus is in the liver cells and some others, but not in the blood.
The same study above also indicated you may have a higher chance of liver cancer even after treatment. It concluded that more research needs to be done in these areas.
Another risk related to treatment is that people who have both hepatitis C and underlying hepatitis B can experience a reactivation or a flare of hepatitis B while receiving hepatitis C treatment.
The flare typically occurs within a few weeks after you start taking medication for hepatitis C. If you happen to have chronic hepatitis B in addition to hepatitis C, it could be helpful to contact a hepatitis expert before starting your treatment for hepatitis C. The expert may suggest that you start taking hepatitis B treatment to prevent a flare.
found many positive outcomes among people using injectable drugs who decided to get treatment for hepatitis C. These included:
Can Hep C Be Cured Completely
Well, the good news is hepatitis C is curable. Though it is a chronic infection, recently developed drugs can clear the virus completely from the system. If the viral load is nil after three months of treatment completion, people are considered cured. This is called sustained virologic response and data suggest that, in these cases, people will stay virus-free for life.
However, people must remember that hepatitis C is a lot more than just liver disease. Hepatitis C is often associated with many medical complications, such as a heightened risk of developing kidney diseases and cancer in the future. The drugs used in the treatment are accompanied by adverse reactions like every other drug. Hence, prevention is the best cure in this case.
Intensive therapy with antivirals against hepatitis will significantly reduce the risk of liver failure, liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant. However, often, the disease causes severe liver scarring. This scarring of the liver is irreversible and can cause potential complications, such as liver failure. Hence, people with hepatitis C need lifelong monitoring.
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Is Svr Considered A Cure
The oral DAA treatments are capable of causing a sustained virologic response , which means that the hepatitis C virus is not detected in the blood 12 weeks or more after completing treatment. Your doctor will monitor your virologic response with blood tests. Most people are considered cured when the virus is no longer present after 12 weeks.
Two or more oral antiviral drugs are typically used together to help prevent resistance in patients treated for HCV. Sometimes these treatments still need to be used with older medications such as ribavirin if you have advanced liver disease. Your chances for a cure may be better if you do not have advanced liver disease and have never received HCV treatment before.
Once you reach an SVR, it is highly unlikely for the hepatitis C virus to be detected again unless you are reinfected. Studies have shown this type of relapse occurs in less than 1% of patients who complete treatment. Also, when the virus is cleared from your blood you can no longer transmit the virus to others. However, you should still take precautions to help prevent catching and spreading HCV.
Any liver damage you have won’t be reverse after you reach SVR, but further damage may be minimized with treatment.
How Should I Take Care Of Myself If I Have Hepatitis C
Good health habits are essential for those who have hepatitis C. You should especially avoid alcohol and medicines and drugs that can put stress on the liver. You should eat a healthy diet and start exercising regularly. Your family doctor can help you plan a diet that is healthy and practical.
Talk to your doctor about any medicines that you are taking, including over-the-counter medicine. Many medicines, including acetaminophen , are broken down by the liver. Because of this, they may increase the speed of liver damage. You should also limit alcohol use. It speeds the progression of liver diseases like hepatitis C. An occasional alcoholic drink may be okay, but check with your doctor first.
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How Is Acute Hepatitis B Treated
Acute hepatitis B doesnt always require treatment. In most cases, a doctor will recommend monitoring your symptoms and getting regular blood tests to determine whether the virus is still in your body.
While you recover, allow your body to rest and drink plenty of fluids to help your body fight off the infection. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen , to help with any abdominal pain you have.
See a doctor if your symptoms are severe or seem to be getting worse. You may need to take a prescription antiviral medication to avoid potential liver damage.
Like acute hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis B may not require medical treatment to avoid permanent liver damage. In some patients, monitoring symptoms and getting regular liver tests is appropriate.
Treatment generally involves antiviral medications, such as:
- peginterferon alfa-2a injections
- antiviral tablets, such as tenofovir or entecavir
Antiviral medications can help to reduce symptoms and prevent liver damage. But they rarely completely get rid of the hepatitis B virus. Instead, the goal of treatment is to have the lowest viral load possible. Viral load refers to the amount of a virus in a blood sample.
Theres no cure for hepatitis B, but the condition is easily preventable by taking a few precautions. Hepatitis B is often spread through sexual contact, shared needles, and accidental needle sticks.
You can reduce your risk of developing hepatitis B or spreading the virus to others by:
What Can I Do To Help My Recovery
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Ongoing moderate to high alcohol intake speeds up liver damage. Talk to your doctor about counselling and support to reduce alcohol use.
- Avoid social drugs, supplements or herbal products as some may cause further liver damage.
- For tiredness and fatigue, consider lifestyle changes to reduce stress, enhance diet and improve fitness.
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Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
It is very important to know that not everyone with hepatitis C has symptoms. The only way to know if you have hepatitis is by talking to your doctor and getting a blood test.
Many people living with hepatitis C feel well and only have symptoms once the disease has progressed and there is serious liver damage.
If you do not have symptoms this does not mean that the virus isnt causing damage.
When first infected, some people may find:
- their urine becomes dark
- their eyes and skin turn yellow
- they experience a minor flu-like illness.
These symptoms may disappear within a few weeks, but this does not necessarily mean that the infection has been cleared.
Over time, symptoms that may develop include:
- tiredness and fatigue
- flu-like symptoms
- pain in the abdomen where the liver is located
- not feeling hungry and indigestion.
Around 30% of people who have been infected may clear the virus from their blood naturally, with no treatment, within 6 months. These people no longer have the hepatitis C virus and are not infectious, but will always have hepatitis C antibodies in their blood. The presence of hepatitis C antibodies shows that someone has been exposed to the virus, but does not offer any immunity against hepatitis C. People can become reinfected after clearing the virus naturally, or after treatment.