Is There A Way To Prevent Hepatitis C
Although currently theres no vaccine to protect people from contracting hepatitis C, there are vaccines for other hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
If you receive a hepatitis C diagnosis, your healthcare provider may advise you to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
The vaccinations are recommended because these hepatitis viruses can lead to additional health and liver complications, especially in those with preexisting liver disease.
Since you cant prevent hepatitis C through a vaccine, the best prevention is to avoid exposure. Hepatitis C is a bloodborne pathogen, so you can limit your chances of exposure through these healthy lifestyle practices:
- Avoid sharing needles, razor blades, or nail clippers.
- Use proper safety precautions if youll be exposed to bodily fluids, such as when performing first aid.
- Hepatitis C isnt usually transmitted through sexual contact, but its possible. Limit your exposure by practicing sex with a condom or other barrier method. Its also important to openly communicate with sexual partners and to get tested if you suspect youve been exposed to the hepatitis C virus.
Because hepatitis C is transmitted through blood, its possible to contract it through a blood transfusion.
However, since the early 1990s, blood product screening tests have been standard protocol for minimizing the risk of this type of transmission.
Subsequent testing is based on risk. Talk to your doctor about your needs.
What Will My Doctor Need To Know To Treat Me
If you want to be assessed for treatment, you need to make an appointment with a doctor. They will be mostly interested in the condition of your liver. Your doctor will organise, if possible, for you to have a Fibroscan examination. If Fibroscan is not available, your doctor will probably use an APRI test. This is an online calculator that estimates the health of your liver. It involves a blood test called a liver function test.
Dont forget, its very important to get a PCR test 12 weeks after finishing treatment this will mean the doctor can make sure you are cured.
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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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.
Skin Signs Of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer can also cause different types of rashes, particularly if HCV is the underlying cause. These not only include previously mentioned conditions like dermatomyositis but also:
- Acanthosis nigricans: This is the darkening and thickening of the skin commonly seen in people with hepatocellular carcinoma. It is often seen in skin folds of the groin, armpits, and neck.
- Acanthosis palmaris: Also known as “tripe hands,” this is the thickening of the skin of the palms accompanied by an abnormal velvety skin texture.
- LeserâTrÃ©lat sign: This is the abrupt outbreak of raised, brownish lesions called seborrheic keratoses, most commonly on the back but sometimes on the legs, arms, face, and neck. The sudden appearance of these lesions is characteristic of different cancers.
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Are There Ways To Cure Hepatitis C Other Than With Medications
Patients sometimes ask whether there are ways to treat hepatitis C other than taking medicines. Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent hepatitis C. Once a person is infected, the only way to treat it is with prescribed antiviral medications.
Some patients worry that having hepatitis C means they will need a liver transplant. Only a very small fraction of people with hepatitis C require a liver transplant. By far, most people with hepatitis C never need a liver transplant. A transplant is performedonlywhen damage to the liver is extremely advanced and the liver is unable to perform its basic functions. A transplant provides a new working liver, but a transplant does not get rid of the hepatitis C virus in the patient. Patients with a liver transplant still need antiviral medication to cure their virus.
Tracking The Costs Of Hepatitis C Treatment
Researchers are continuing to create medications that shorten the duration of treatment for hepatitis C.
According to the Pharmacy Times, the cost of treatment can be as low as $54,600 for the 12-week course and the entry to the market of new, cheaper drugs is likely to continue to bring the cost of hepatitis C treatments down.
The level of insurance cover for hepatitis C treatments can vary, depending on a persons insurance policy and overall health.
Some insurance companies will pay for people whose hepatitis C has not responded to less-expensive treatments or for those who are already showing signs of liver damage.
Some insurance companies may require a person to prove they have been drug- and alcohol-free before authorizing treatment.
Insurance companies may believe people who fall into these categories will cost them less money.
If a person has a hepatitis C diagnosis, they may first ask what treatments their doctor recommends. Then, they should contact their insurance company to find out what medications their insurance plan may cover.
Even if an insurance plan does not provide cover for treatments, there are still some patient assistance programs that help reduce the costs of specific treatments.
To find out about these, people can try researching the following:
Obtaining additional financial assistance and discounts can sometimes be a time-consuming and frustrating process.
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What About Patients With Hepatitis C Who Also Have Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B virus can flare in patients who are co-infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis C and are taking medication for hepatitis C. This has been reported as a potential risk for patients who are taking hepatitis C treatment and have underlying hepatitis B as well. The flare usually occurs within a few weeks after the patient starts taking medication for hepatitis C. Therefore, patients who have both hepatitis B and hepatitis C should be seen by a hepatitis expertbeforestarting treatment of the hepatitis C they may need to start taking hepatitis B treatment to avoid a hepatitis B flare.
Reasons To Delay Treatment
Hepatitis C treatment is generally not recommended during pregnancy. There is not a lot of information on the effects of DAAs during pregnancy. Research is being done on taking DAAs during pregnancy so this may change in the future.
Treatment that includes ribavirin can cause severe birth defects and must not be taken during pregnancy. When a couple wants to have a baby, both partners should avoid using ribavirin for at least six months before trying to get pregnant.
A healthcare provider can help determine a treatment plan and timeline for a person who has hepatitis C and wants to have a baby.
Children and adolescents
Hepatitis C treatment for children over the age of 12 is available in Canada. It is recommended that children who require treatment for hepatitis C be connected to a specialist with experience treating the pediatric population.
Resources for service providers
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Traveling While On Treatment
If you plan to travel while on treatment, there are several considerations you need to think about when making arrangements:
- If youre traveling by car, do not leave medications in a hot vehicle.
- If youre traveling by air, carry on all medications with you in the cabin. Keep them in their original containers with the prescription label.
- Make sure to bring contact information for your healthcare providers with you in case you need to contact them with a question or concern.
- Keep a card in your wallet that indicates who to call in an emergency. This should include contact information for a family member and your doctor.
Treatment For Acute And Chronic Hepatitis C Infection
Some people are diagnosed with hepatitis C when the infection is in the acute phase . About one in four people will clear the hepatitis C virus from their body on their own within six months. When a person is diagnosed with hepatitis C in the acute phase, a healthcare provider might recommend waiting to see if their body clears the virus on its own.
Current treatment guidelines in Canada focus on treatment for chronic hepatitis C infection . The treatment guidelines recommend that treatment of acute hepatitis C infection be assessed on an individualized basis. In many cases, a person has to progress to chronic hepatitis C infection before they can receive public or private drug coverage for hepatitis C treatments.
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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.
What Drugs Treat And Cure Hepatitis C
The treatment of chronic hepatitis C has gone through several generations of medications. Not long ago, treatment was limited to interferon alpha-2b or pegylated interferon alpha-2b , and ribavirin . Interferon and pegylated interferon need to be injected under the skin , while ribavirin is taken by mouth. This combination therapy is infrequently used today, being recommended for only the least common genotypes of hepatitis C virus .
Since 2010, direct-acting antiviral drugs have been in use. The second generation of antivirals for HCV was the protease inhibitors telaprevir and boceprevir , both taken by mouth. These were used in combination with the earlier drugs to increase effectiveness . These drugs are also no longer in common use, and have been replaced by better options.
As more has been learned about how hepatitis C virus multiplies within the liver cells, new drugs continue to be developed to interfere with this multiplication at different stages. As such, we no longer think in terms of generations of drugs, but rather categories of action. Research and development of these direct-acting antivirals continue, with new agents coming to market every few months. Each category is improved and expanded by the addition of new drugs, which are safer and more effective.
Currently available and commonly used direct-acting antiviral drugs include:
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How Do My Healthcare Professional And I Decide On Treatment
Your healthcare professional will look at your health history and decide if treatment is right for you. The treatment you receive and the length of treatment may depend on:
- How much virus is in your body
- Your genotype of hep C
- Whether you have liver damage
- Whether or not youve been treated previously
Hepatitis C Treatment And Herbs
Unlike conventional medical treatments, most herbal therapies have not undergone rigorous scientific study. Fortunately, a greater effort is being made to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of various types of dietary supplements, including herbs, through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health formerly called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine a center of the National Institutes of Health .
So while some products may be safe others may actually pose significant risks for example, by producing serious side effects or interacting badly with your Hepatitis C medication. Because herbs can interfere with the action of Hepatitis C medications, its important to tell your doctor about everything youre taking before starting treatment for Hepatitis C. And while getting treated, its important not to take any new herbs or supplements before consulting with your healthcare provider. For example, you should NOT take St. Johns wort , or a product that contains St. Johns wort, with several of the medications used to treat Hepatitis C, including Olysio, Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Daklinza.
CERTAIN HERBS ASSOCIATED WITH LIVER DAMAGE
Its also important to be aware that several common herbs can cause liver damage, especially in people with an existing liver disease such as Hepatitis C. These include:
Additionally, the following groups of people should avoid the use of herbs in general unless ordered by their medical provider:
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Side Effects Of Treatment
Treatments with direct-acting antivirals have very few side effects. Most people find DAA tablets very easy to take.
You may feel a little sick and have trouble sleeping to begin with, but this should soon settle down.
Your nurse or doctor should be able to suggest things to help ease any discomfort.
You need to complete the full course of treatment to ensure you clear the hepatitis C virus from your body.
If you have any problems with your medicines, speak to your doctor or nurse straight away.
Side effects for each type of treatment can vary from person to person.
For a very small number of people, more severe side effects from hepatitis C treatments may include:
What Does It Mean To Have A Successful Treatment What Is A Sustained Virologic Response
In an untreated state, the hepatitis C virus infects the cells of the liver and then continuously lives there, making copies of itself that circulate in the bloodstream. Antiviral medications can destroy the ability of the virus to reproduce, so the amount of virus in the bloodstream then decreases. The amount of virus in the blood is measured by aviral load.
Treatment is successful when the viral load drops toundetectablelevels, which means the virus cannot be detected in the bloodstream at all. The viral load becomes undetectable during treatment and remains undetected after treatment has ended. If there is still no detectable virus in the blood 12 weeks after the end of the treatment, the treatment was successful. This is called a Sustained Virologic Response .
A patient who has achieved an SVR is considered to be cured of the hepatitis C virus.
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Potential Outcomes Of Treatment
In order to adequately monitor your response to treatment, youll need to visit your healthcare provider so he or she can examine you in person and discuss how youre feeling. The level of Hepatitis C virus in your bloodstream will be checked to monitor your response to treatment. The potential outcomes of treatment are the following:
- Sustained virologic response : You are considered cured if the Hepatitis C virus is not detected when measured with a blood test three months after youve completed treatment. This is called a sustained virologic response and data suggest that you will stay virus free indefinitely.
- Nonresponse: The Hepatitis C virus does not become undetectable as a result of treatment. This can be further categorized as partial response, when the viral levels become lower but not undetectable, or null-response which is when the viral level never drops significantly.
- Relapse: The Hepatitis C virus becomes undetectable on treatment, but then is detectable again, either during treatment or after treatment is stopped.
- Incomplete treatment: Treatment ended earlier that the prescribed duration.
The goal of treatment is to have an SVR. This is when you are considered cured. Taking your medication as prescribed will increase your chance of being cured and decrease the long-term complications of Hepatitis C.
Cost Of Hepatitis C Medicines
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be costly. Most government and private health insurance prescription drug plans provide some coverage for these medicines. Talk with your doctor about your health insurance coverage for hepatitis C medicines.
Drug companies, nonprofit organizations, and some states offer programs that can help pay for hepatitis C medicines. If you need help paying for medicines, talk with your doctor. Learn more about financial help for hepatitis C medicines.
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What Are The Best Hepatitis C Medications
The best medication to treat hep C depends on your medical history and other medications you may be taking that could interact with the prescribed drugs below. Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medications.
|Best hepatitis C medications|
|1 mL||Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, erratic heartbeat, chest pain, bloody diarrhea|
Dosage is determined by your doctor based on your medical condition, response to treatment, age, and weight. Other possible side effects exist. This is not a complete list.
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