Who Can Access The Cures
Hep C cures are now available to everyone in Australia who has hep C.* The national and state governments want everyone with hep C to be cured, including prisoners and people who inject drugs. Now is a very good time to consider testing for hep C or speaking to your doctor about the hep C cures.
*Cures are available to people who have a Medicare Card or Health Care Concession Card and who arent hospital inpatients.
You might be able to access healthcare and the cures via your computer or phone.
What Are The Symptoms
Most people have no symptoms when they are first infected with the hepatitis C virus. If you do develop symptoms, they may include:
- Feeling very tired.
- Sore muscles.
- Dark urine.
- Yellowish eyes and skin . Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
Most people go on to develop chronic hepatitis C but still don’t have symptoms. This makes it common for people to have hepatitis C for 15 years or longer before it is diagnosed.
How Do You Treat Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be a short-term or long-term disease. Acute hepatitis C is typically monitored but not treated, and may go away on its own without treatment. According to the CDC, almost 85% of people with hepatitis C will develop chronic infection.
There are several medications available to treat chronic hepatitis C. New safe and effective treatments can cure most people living with the virus.
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Awareness Prevention And Early Diagnosis Are Essential
There’s a good reason why hepatitis C is known as a “silent killer.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis C infection, which is transmitted through infected bodily fluids like blood and semen, and causes inflammation of the liver. Yet up to 75% of people who have hepatitis C aren’t aware they have it.
Most of those living with the virus experience only mild symptoms or don’t have any symptoms at all until they develop serious liver damage or another life-threatening liver disease. Unfortunately, that means they aren’t getting diagnosed and treatment is delayed until the later stages when irreversible liver damage has occurred.
Here, hepatologistNancy Reau, MD, associate director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program at Rush University Medical Center, explains who is at risk for hepatitis C and offers advice to help you protect yourself.
Misinformation About Hepatitis C Cures
There is a lot of confusion about hep C and its ability to “go away”. I think this misconception happens for a couple of reasons.
I have heard a lot of people say that they are in remission or their doctor told them it is dormant for now. But the truth is that either you have the virus and need treatment or not. Even providers aren’t always clear on the virus, or they share information regarding hep C poorly. Hep C is a very hardy virus that cannot be treated with herbs or natural medicine. It doesn’t go into remission.
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Can You Get A Vaccine To Prevent Hepatitis C
Vaccines are a way to expose your body to a virus before you encounter the live virus naturally. A vaccine contains traces of a dead virus, so your body can form a memory of the virus. Your body then remembers how to attack and destroy the virus if you ever come into contact with it.
There isnt a vaccine for hepatitis C at this time. Hepatitis C has many different subtypes and strains, so creating a vaccine that protects against all the different types is complicated. Vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B, but one for hepatitis C hasnt been approved.
If you have hepatitis C, your doctor may suggest you get the vaccine for both hepatitis A and B. These two types of viruses cause liver damage, so the added protection is a smart idea.
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.
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Understand Your Diagnosis And Test Results
It’s important to understand your diagnosis, including the details regarding treatment. It’s a good idea to always ask for a copy of your labs so you can have them on hand to research or share with someone who can explain the virus and its presence.
I had one child test positive and we went for over a year thinking he was carrying this potentially life-threatening illness. His hep C cleared without treatment, but his doctor never even ordered that second confirmatory test. This is a pretty basic part of hep C testing our doctor should have known about and yet he didn’t. So be clear. Ask questions. If you find your doctor is lacking in resources and details, take your labs to someone who can decipher the numbers and names.
Testing For Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is usually diagnosed using 2 blood tests: the antibody test and the PCR test. These can be as part of a routine blood test or are often combined as a dried blood spot test. The dried blood spot test is similar to a blood sugar test in pricking the finger to get a blood spot that is put on a testing card. This is then sent to a laboratory to be tested.
Another similar test is an antigen test, which if used can often get the results back in 90 minutes. This is very expensive and not many services have access to the machine needed.
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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.
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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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.
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 don’t 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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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
You Can Still Get Hep C Again
Hepatitis C is unlike many viruses you may be familiar with, since you can still become re-infected even after youve been cured. And, unfortunately, there is no vaccine on the horizon.
The antibody you get from hepatitis C is not protective, says Menon. Just because you got it once doesnt mean you cant get it again.
To avoid getting re-infected, its important to take all the steps youd take to avoid the virus in the first place. For example, dont share razors or syringes, and avoid sharing toothbrushes with people whove been diagnosed with hepatitis C. Its also a good idea to ask your partner to be tested for hepatitis C. The risk of sexual transmission is very low, but if your partner has hepatitis C they should get treated as well, says Menon.
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Whats The Outlook For Hep C Thats Developed Into Cirrhosis Or Liver Cancer
Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, especially if left untreated. Without treatment, cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer and liver failure.
Treating cirrhosis and liver cancer typically requires a liver transplant. A transplant can cure both cancer and liver function impairment. But a transplant is only available for a small number of people.
Theres Reason For Hope With Hepatitis C
Unfortunately, even when people are diagnosed with hepatitis C, many dont do anything about it. According to a report published in May 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine, only about a third of people with hepatitis C receive medical care for their condition.
Yet Singh says hes seeing more people with hepatitis C than ever before, as people are finding out that new treatment options often work well. New treatments for hepatitis C have been revolutionary, he says. Over 95 percent of patients can be cured with three months of treatment.
Newer antiviral drugs can clear the virus even in people who have had no luck on earlier medications. They also generally take less time to start working, cause fewer side effects, and can treat and even eliminate illnesses caused by hepatitis C.
The CDC recommends that all American adults over age 18 get screened at least once. Pregnant women should be tested during each pregnancy. People who inject drugs, share needles, or have received maintenance hemodialysis are also at risk. If you are in one of these higher risk groups, you should be tested routinely. Talk to your doctor.
If you do test positive and get treated, keep in mind that damage from liver cirrhosis usually cant be reversed, Singh says. Following treatment, youll be monitored closely for liver cancer and other health problems.
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What Happens To Your Health When You Arent Treated For Hepatitis C
Although medication can cure hepatitis C, millions of people arent taking it. The problem: Left untreated, the virus can lead to serious health complications.
Theres a reason the hepatitis C virus is called the silent killer. All too often, people dont realize theyve been infected. Out of the estimated 2.4 million people in the United States who have hepatitis C, more than half dont know they have it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Usually when someone gets infected with hepatitis C, they initially until the disease gets fairly advanced, says Hardeep Singh, MD, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. The median time it takes for symptoms…to develop is 30 years.”
While some people are able to clear the virus on their own, most arent, and more than 50 percent go on to develop long-term, or chronic, hepatitis C, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Over time, untreated hepatitis C can cause hardening and scarring of the liver, which can cause complications that eventually lead to liver failure.
Liver cirrhosis and liver failure usually cannot be reversed sometimes a liver transplant is the only treatment option once advanced liver damage occurs. With hepatitis C, your risk of liver cancer also rises.
Here are a few other conditions that can be caused by untreated hepatitis C.
What The Cdc Recommends
Were you born between 1945 and 1965? If so, then youre a member of the Hepatitis C generation. The CDC recently recommended that all people born between during this time have a 1-time screening test for Hepatitis C. We now have new drugs that can treat and cure Hepatitis C so you should go get tested today.
The life you save may be your own! Please contact your local healthcare provider.
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What Are The Treatments For Hepatitis C
Treatment for hepatitis C is with antiviral medicines. They can cure the disease in most cases.
If you have acute hepatitis C, your health care provider may wait to see if your infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
If your hepatitis C causes cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Treatments for health problems related to cirrhosis include medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If your hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
Hepatitis C Virus Strains
There are different strains of the hepatitis C virus. These are called genotypes. In New Zealand, it is estimated that of those infected with hepatitis C virus:
- 55% have genotype 1
- 35% have genotype 3
- 8% have genotype 2
- 1% have genotype 4 or 6.
It used to be important to know the genotype as it used to determine which treatment option was best. We now have a funded treatment called Maviret that treats all genotypes .
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