Treatment If The Condition Gets Worse
Severe liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis C usually takes 20 or more years to develop.
If your hepatitis C continues to get worse, it can cause your liver to stop working, a condition called end-stage liver failure. In this case, a liver transplant may be the only way to extend your life. But if you are drinking alcohol, are sharing needles to inject drugs, or have severe depression or certain other mental illnesses, liver transplant may not be an option.
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How Will My Provider Monitor Me During The Treatment
Your provider will meet with you during treatment to review how well you are tolerating treatment and review laboratory results. Laboratory tests help keep tabs on your health, track the viral load, and determine your response to treatment. You will be given specific dates to go get your blood tested at the lab during and after the treatment.
Do Communicate Often With Your Doctor
The treatment for hepatitis C has evolved over the years and may continue to change as new drugs come on the market, Dr. Lee says, which is why its so important to keep communicating with your doctor. Although youll be closely monitored during treatment, speak up about any difficulties or side effects youre experiencing. Physical exams and blood tests are only part of the treatment equation. Your personal experience adds vital information so your doctor can provide you with the best treatment.
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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.
Are Alternative Medicines Available
Some people believe certain forms of alternative medicine help cure hepatitis C.
However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that there are no effective, research-proven forms of alternative treatment or complementary medicine for hepatitis C.
Silymarin, also known as milk thistle, is an herb commonly suggested to help cure hepatitis C liver disease. But a rigorous did not find any beneficial effects from this supplement.
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Managing Side Effects Of Treatment
In the past when interferon was used, management of side effects was critical to have success with Hepatitis C treatment. Side effects are much less common now with the new Hepatitis C medications, but they can still happen. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to manage them. Its important to talk to your Hepatitis C provider to help you manage side effects and have a good experience on treatment.
Keep in mind that not everyone will experience the same side effects, nor are they necessarily severe. Developing a good support system before beginning therapy with family, friends, and peer support group members can help you cope with treatment-related side effects.
The following tips will help you manage some of the more common side effects of Hepatitis C treatment:
- Modify your work schedule if possible.
- Get regular low-impact exercise such as walking.
- Eat well-balanced meals and drink enough fluids.
- Develop a regular routine go to bed and get up the same time every day.
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditation, warm baths or massage read or listen to music.
- Avoid exercise, caffeinated products, or heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Limit fluid intake about 2 hours before bedtime so you dont have to get up to go to the bathroom.
- Take over-the-counter or prescription medications as recommended by your provider.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Eat whatever appeals to you most.
- Eat snacks high in protein have protein drinks .
Sharing Toothbrushes Scissors And Razors
Theres a potential risk that hepatitis C may be passed on through sharing items such as toothbrushes, razors and scissors, as they can become contaminated with infected blood.
Equipment used by hairdressers, such as scissors and clippers, can pose a risk if it has been contaminated with infected blood and not sterilised or cleaned between customers. However, most salons operate to high standards, so this risk is low.
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Cost Of Drug Treatments
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be very expensive listed at tens of thousands of dollars.
While pricing is often negotiated by insurance companies and other agencies, the process is not especially transparent and can be confusing.
If you need help paying for medicines, speak with your doctor. For more information about available financial assistance, visit the American Liver Foundation.
Additional reporting by Deborah Shapiro.
Who Gets Hepatitis C
Who gets hepatitis C?
Anyone can get hepatitis C virus. But unlike a cold or flu virus, HCV isnât easy to catch. The virus is transmitted only by direct contact with human blood that contains the virus. There are several ways infection can occur. Those at risk of being infected with hepatitis C virus include:
What about tattooing?
Several studies have shown there is no link between licensed commercial tattooing parlors and HCV infection, âbut transmission of Hepatitis C is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing,â according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
The agency advises people thinking about getting tattoos or body piercing to consider the health risks. Itâs possible to get infected with HCV, the CDC says, if the tools used have someone elseâs blood on them, or if the piercer or tattoo artist fails to use proper hygiene, such as washing hands, sterilizing tools, and using disposable gloves.
Is it possible to contract HCV from a shared razor or toothbrush?
There are no documented cases of transmission, but the CDC warns that people should not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care items: They might have small amounts of infected blood on them.
The CDC stresses that the hepatitis C virus is NOT spread by casual contact or by breast feeding, hugging or kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing utensils, drinking glasses, food, or water.
Is sex safe?
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How Long Does It Take To Cure Hepatitis C
Depending on the drug combination, the specific genotype of hepatitis C that is to be treated, any prior treatment, and whether the person has cirrhosis, the duration of medical therapy may be as few as 8 weeks, or up to 24 weeks. Most regimens are for 12 consecutive weeks. This is much shorter than the interferon-based treatments years ago that lasted up to 48 weeks. Generally, a person is not considered cured until the RNA viral load is undetectable for 24 weeks after therapy is stopped. This is called sustained virologic response or SVR.
The presence of cirrhosis or liver fibrosis is determined by liver biopsy, noninvasive fibrosis scans, or formulas that estimate liver fibrosis based on blood tests, such as AST-to-platelet Ratio Index or Fibrosis-4 Index.3
A very important aspect of treatment is the elimination of all alcohol consumption. Alcohol adds fuel to the fire when it comes to chronic hepatitis. Drinking alcohol greatly worsens liver fibrosis and speeds progression to cirrhosis, and there is no safe amount to drink for someone with chronic hepatitis. Drinking alcohol also makes it harder for the medications to be effective and may interfere with proper dosing.
Avoid Alcohol And Drugs
One of the most important jobs of your liver is to break down drugs and alcohol. If you have hepatitis C, one of the best things you can do is to avoid substances that may harm your liver, such as alcohol and illegal drugs. If you have cirrhosis, you also may need to avoid certain medicines.
If you use illegal drugs or drink alcohol, it is important to stop. Being honest with your doctor about your drug and alcohol use will help you deal with any substance use disorders. If you dont feel that you can talk openly with your doctor, you may want to find a doctor you feel more comfortable with. If you want to stop using drugs or alcohol and need help to do so, ask your doctor or someone else you trust about drug and alcohol treatment options.
Because many medicines can stress your liver, talk to your doctor before you take any prescription or over-the-counter medicines. This includes herbal remedies as well.
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Ive Never Used Iv Drugs Or Been Stuck With A Dirty Needle How Did I Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. It can also be transmitted by needles used for tattooing or body piercing. In rare cases, hepatitis C can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. This virus can be transmitted through sex and sharing razors or toothbrushes. These occurrences are also rare. Many times, the cause of hepatitis C is never found.
Contagious And Incubation Periods
The incubation periodthe time it takes for symptoms to appear after the hepatitis C virus has entered your bodyis from 2 weeks to 6 months. But not all people have symptoms when they are first infected.
You can spread the virus to someone else at any time after you are infected, even if you dont have symptoms.
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What Causes Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with an infected persons blood. Contact can occur by
- sharing drug needles or other drug materials with an infected person
- getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on an infected person
- being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not kept sterilefree from all viruses and other microorganismsand were used on an infected person before they were used on you
- having contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- using an infected persons razor, toothbrush, or nail clippers
- being born to a mother with hepatitis C
- having unprotected sex with an infected person
You cant get hepatitis C from
- being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
- drinking water or eating food
- hugging an infected person
- shaking hands or holding hands with an infected person
- sharing spoons, forks, and other eating utensils
- sitting next to an infected person
A baby cant get hepatitis C from breast milk.18
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. But you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by:
- Not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- Wearing gloves if you have to touch another persons blood or open sores
- Making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- Not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
- Using a latex condom during sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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Can Males Transmit Hcv To A Fetus
It is unlikely that males can transmit HCV to the fetus through sperm during conception.
A 2004 review of studies investigating assisted reproduction found that while some studies have detected HCV in sperm, the evidence suggests that ejaculated sperm is usually safe to use in fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization.
What Do My Test Results Mean
There are two blood tests that are used to detect hepatitis C. The first tests for hepatitis C antibodies, or signs that your body fought or is fighting an infection. The results will tell your doctor whether youve ever had the virus.
If the antibody test is positive, youll receive a second test, which can detect the amount of virus, or viral load, in your blood. Your doctor may then conduct a third blood test to determine which type you have, to allow for more targeted hepatitis C treatment.
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You May Still Need To Have Follow
Then you will be tested after another three months to make sure the virus has not come back. If all tests are negative, you are cured, says Dr. Massoud.
Since hepatitis C doesnt always cause any symptoms, you may not feel any different after being cured. If you were experiencing symptoms fatigue is the common one you should start to feel stronger and more energetic, which should continue to improve after you finish treatment, says Massoud.
Can The Symptoms Get Worse
Untreated hepatitis C can lead to more dramatic medical concerns. Cirrhosis can develop from years of scarring. The condition weakens liver tissue, making it harder for the liver to function.
You may also develop liver failure if enough of the liver stops functioning well. Some people may also develop liver cancer due to the liver cells becoming weakened.
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Can The Results Of Liver Panel Tests Point To The Presence Of Hepatitis C
A liver panel usually includes tests called AST, ALT, bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, and some others. Abnormal results could show up in many different conditions, not just hepatitis C. And even if the results of a liver panel are normal, you might still have hepatitis C. So, the liver panel alone cannot tell your provider the answer.
Hepatitis C can be diagnosed only by blood tests that are specific to hepatitis C:
In short, if the results of one or more tests on a liver panel are abnormal, generally speaking, the tests should be repeated and confirmed. If the results remain abnormal, your provider should be prompted to look for the cause.
More important than using the liver panel, if you have risks of having been infected with hepatitis C then you should have the specific hepatitis C antibody test to determine if you have hepatitis C infection.
If You Notice Symptoms See A Doctor Right Away
Symptoms of hepatitis C include the following:
- Jaundice a yellowish tone to the eyes and skin
- Mild, chronic right belly pain
- Loss of appetite
If you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C or notice any symptoms, visit your primary care doctor as soon as possible. If you test positive for the virus, your doctor can refer you to a hepatologist to discuss your options.
I strongly encourage all baby boomers and others who are at high risk to get tested, even if you dont look or feel sick, Reau says. If you do have hepatitis C, the earlier we discover it, the more likely we can prevent it from progressing and causing more serious damage.
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What Is Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and damage. Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues of the body become injured or infected. Inflammation can damage organs.
Viruses invade normal cells in your body. Many viruses cause infections that can be spread from person to person. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with an infected persons blood.
Hepatitis C can cause an acute or chronic infection.
Although no vaccine for hepatitis C is available, you can take steps to protect yourself from hepatitis C. If you have hepatitis C, talk with your doctor about treatment. Medicines can cure most cases of hepatitis C.
How Should I Take Harvoni
Take Harvoni exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets.
You may take Harvoni with or without food. Take the medicine at the same time each day.
Read and carefully follow any Instructions for Use provided with your medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you do not understand these instructions.
Do not chew the oral pellets. To take with food, you may mix the pellets with a non-acidic soft food that is at room temperature or below. Swallow the mixture without chewing, no more than 30 minutes after mixing. Do not save the mixture for later use.
Ledipasvir and sofosbuvir doses are based on weight . Your dose needs may change if you gain or lose weight.
You will need frequent blood tests to check your liver function.
If you’ve ever had hepatitis B, this virus may become active or get worse while you are using this medicine or in the months after you stop. You may need liver function tests for several months after your last dose.
You should not stop using Harvoni suddenly. Stopping suddenly could make your condition harder to treat with hepatitis C antiviral medicine.
Use all medications as directed and read all medication guides you receive. Do not change your dose or dosing schedule without your doctor’s advice. Every person with chronic hepatitis C should remain under the care of a doctor.
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