Prevention Is The Best Medicine
Even though hepatitis C rarely spreads within a household, if you or a family member have the disease, it’s wise to take precautions to prevent its spread especially if anyone in your home is immune compromised, or has cuts or open sores that increase the risk of infection.
In general, use these common sense preventive tips:
- Unless you are in a long-term, monogamous relationship, practice safe sex.
- Clean up spilled or dried blood with a bleach-based cleaning solution and wear rubber gloves.
- Do not share razors.
- Do not share toothbrushes. “Though hepatitis C is not transmitted through saliva, there might be blood on the toothbrush,” Reau says.
Note that hepatitis C is not transmitted by sharing eating utensils, hugging, kissing, coughing or sneezing.
You May Have To Stop Drinking
If you have cirrhosis or liver damage even if its mild you should abstain from alcohol until your liver is healed. In this case, there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink, even if the patient is feeling well, Massoud says.
If you dont have liver damage and are cured of hepatitis C, it may be possible to drink in moderation. Talk to your doctor first, though.
What Are Hepatitis Cs Causes And Symptoms
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, per healthline.com, the hepatitis C virus is most commonly transferred from one person to another via the sharing of needles .
Using someone elses razor, toothbrush, and even nail clippers also carries a hepatitis C risk, although casual contact such as hugging, or holding or shaking hands, isnt believed to pass the virus from one person to another. Theres also about a 4 percent chance that a mother infected with hepatitis C will pass the virus on to her baby, per healthline.com.
If and when the hepatitis C virus becomes active in a persons body and the incubation period can be as long as 15 years, per ayushremedies.in symptoms can include the following, per livealittlelonger.com. Some of these can often be overlooked or rationalized away because they are also typical of the flu:
- Loss of appetite
- Other symptoms can include bruising or bleeding easily, diarrhea, joint pain, weight loss, itchy skin, and confusion.
If you suspect you have the disease, its vital that you see a doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and a plan for treatment and prescription medications , if needed. A simple blood test can tell you if you have hepatitis C.
If caught early enough, any related damage to your liver which happens to be your bodys biggest gland, per ayushremedies.in is reversible. Its also important to know that hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer, per draxe.com.
How Do Doctors Treat The Complications Of Hepatitis C
If hepatitis C leads to cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Doctors can treat the health problems related to cirrhosis with medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased chance of liver cancer. Your doctor may order an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer.
If hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
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Discovery To Cure In 25 Years
Hepatitis C is a viral, blood-borne disease that progresses slowly over time. If left untreated, it can cause life-threatening damage to the liver. An estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection with almost 400,000 deaths each year. The hepatitis C virus is the leading cause of liver cancer and the main reason for liver transplantation.
Prior to the identification of HCV in 1989, so little was known about the virus that it was simply called non-A, non-B hepatitis. Since identification, effective treatments have been relatively rapidly developed. Compared to the first-ever HCV treatment approved in 1991, in which a patient faced cure rates of around 6%, drugs today have more than a 95% success rate over short treatment courses. That makes HCV the fastest viral disease ever to be identified and cured. It remains the only chronic viral illness that can be completely cured, allowing millions of people to regain their health and live full and productive lives.
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What Can People Do To Help The Medications Work Best
- Take the medications every day
- Stay in touch with pharmacy to be sure that all refills are ready on time
- Take the medications exactly as prescribed
- Do not skip doses
- Get all blood tests done on time
- Go to all visits with providers as recommended
- Tell the provider about all other medications that are being taken – including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements
- Complete the entire course of medication
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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It’s Different Than Hepatitis A And B
Each form of hepatitis has its own specific virus that spreads and is treated differently. “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver, or that the virus has an affinity for hurting the liver,” Reau says.
- Hepatitis A is an acute, short-term infection that often does not require treatment.
- Hepatitis B hides deep in the body and, like hepatitis C, is treated in a variety of ways, from antiviral medications to liver transplants.
“The viruses are different, but all of them should be taken very seriously since they can lead to significant liver disease and even death,” she adds.
But Even If You’ve Been Cured It Can Have Lifelong Health Implications
“Hepatitis C is a lot more than just a liver disease,” Reau says. “It has been associated with many medical conditions, such as an increased risk of developing diabetes, kidney disease and cancer.”
While curing hepatitis C significantly reduces the risk of serious complications, like liver failure, liver cancer and the need for transplantation, it doesn’t completely eliminate the health risks associated with the disease.
“Hep C is linked to scarring of the liver or cirrhosis and the more scar tissue that develops, the greater the likelihood of complications,” Reau says. “If there is a lot of scarring, you will need lifelong monitoring.”
Reau also recommends leading a healthy lifestyle to help prevent re-infection and further liver damage: Limit alcohol consumption, control your weight, avoid high-risk activities and manage diabetes if you have it.
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Helpful Tips While Taking Hepatitis C Medications
- Always follow your health care providers advice, particularly the instructions on taking your medicine.
- If you have to cancel an appointment, call your provider and schedule a new one as soon as possible.
- Take good care of yourself. Eat well, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day, and try to get a full nights sleep.
- Learn about the hepatitis C medications you are taking. This includes special risks and warnings.
- If taking ribavirin, use sunscreen, wear long sleeves and a hat, and limit sun exposure.
- Write down your doctors name and phone number. Carry this information with you at all times.
- Write the names and amounts of the medicines you are taking. Carry this information with you at all times.
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.
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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.
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:
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Treatment Of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is treated with antiviral medications that aim to clear the virus from your body.
New all-tablet treatments have greatly improved the outcomes for people with hepatitis C. These treatments can cure more than 95% of individuals with chronic hepatitis C. There are several new tablets that are used in combination to treat all hepatitis C strains . They are effective for people with no liver damage and those who have more advanced liver damage or cirrhosis.
These new tablet medications are available and subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and can be prescribed by specialists, general practitioners and specialised nurse practitioners.
There are no restrictions on accessing treatment it is available for all adults with a Medicare card. People under 18 are able to access treatment and it is recommended they are referred to a pediatrician experienced in the treatment of hepatitis C.
For more information on the new medications for the treatment of hepatitis C, see our video: Hepatitis C Cure what it means for Victorians.
If your doctor does not know about the new treatments, you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
Talk with your doctor about treatment options and the potential for interactions with other medications, herbal preparations and other drugs. If you take prescribed medication this will be managed so you can access treatment.
In general, if you have hepatitis C you will feel better if you:
Importance Of Adhering To Your Treatment Plan
Once you begin treatment for your Hepatitis C infection, youll want to do everything you can to make it a success. Adherence to your Hepatitis C medication regimen is an important predictor of successful treatment. When it comes to medications, this means that you want to adhere to taking them as prescribed meaning taking the right dose, the right way, at the right time, for as long as prescribed.
The goal of using medications to treat Hepatitis C is to:
- Clear the Hepatitis C virus from your body
- Prevent or slow down scarring of your liver
- Reduce your chance of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer
Proper adherence to Hepatitis C therapy will increase your chance of being cured and decrease the long-term complications of Hepatitis C.
Adhering to other aspects of your treatment plan is also important. Keeping your medical appointments and getting the necessary lab tests will help to maximize your chance of treatment success and minimize potential problems.
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How Is Acute Hepatitis B Treated
Acute hepatitis B doesnt always require treatment. Most of the time, a doctor or healthcare professional 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 to help with any abdominal pain you have. Speak with a doctor about which medications can help your symptoms.
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. For some people, monitoring their symptoms and getting regular liver tests is an appropriate care regimen.
Treatment generally involves antiviral medications, such as:
- peginterferon alfa-2a injections
- antiviral tablets, such as tenofovir or entecavir
Antiviral medications can help to reduce your symptoms and prevent liver damage, but they rarely completely get rid of the hepatitis B virus. Instead, the goal of treatment is for you to have the lowest viral load possible. Viral load refers to the amount of a virus in a blood sample.
You can lower your risk of developing hepatitis B or spreading the virus to others by:
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.
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Monitoring While On Treatment
Patients who do not achieve virologic suppression or a 2-log decrease in HCV RNA at 12 weeks may have therapy discontinued, although factors such as degree of fibrosis and tolerability of therapy should be considered.
Patients should have a CBC and chemistry evaluations 2 weeks after initiation of treatment to assess for potential toxicities. CBC, chemistry evaluations, and pregnancy tests in women should be done routinely at each follow-up visit and not less often then every 4-6 weeks during treatment.
Patients who achieve an end-of-treatment virological response should have HCV RNA testing performed 24 weeks after stopping treatment to evaluate for a SVR.
Erythropoetin alfa and granulocyte colony stimulating factor may be used to treat anemia and neutropenia, respectively, in order to maintain the patient on full medication doses.
Providers should reference the full discussion of side effects of hepatitis C treatment in Appendix A.
Pegylated interferon and ribavirin have been found to be safe and effective in HCV mono-infection and in co-infection with HIV.2,61 Safety and efficacy has not been established in patients who have received liver or other organ transplants, in patients who have failed other alpha interferon treatments and in patients under the age of 18.56,57
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Innovating Against A Silent Killer
Imagine taking an injection and a pill that made you feel every day worse than you ever felt from the infection that was being treated. Alexea Gaffney-Adams, MD, infectious disease specialist
Hepatitis C is dubbed the silent killer as it typically progresses without symptoms, often leaving patients unaware they are infected until their condition is very serious. HCV damages the liver slowly over many years, often moving from inflammation to scarring to permanent, irreversible scarring .
Once a patient has cirrhosis, the liver is unable to heal itself, and this condition can rarely be reversed. For those with end-stage liver disease, treatment is more focused on preventing further damage in an effort to avoid complications, including liver cancer, liver transplantation, and premature death. Hepatitis C has also been associated with other serious conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, and depression.
In 1987, scientists working at Chiron Corporation, later acquired by Novartis, partnered with the CDC. Using a novel molecular cloning approach, they officially identified and named the virus hepatitis C in 1989.
Interferon was the first, and for a time, the only treatment for hepatitis C. An interferon is a protein produced by the bodys immune system in response to an infection. Side effects were debilitating, and many patients dropped out of what was a very long course of treatment. It was also a largely ineffective treatment.
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