Hepatitis C treatment involves taking one or more medications to fight the virus. Lifestyle changes to help prevent further damage to your liver and the spread of the infection is also recommended.
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There are six strains of hepatitis C and each of them is treated in a slightly different way. Before starting treatment, you will have blood tests done to determine which strain you have. Your doctor will talk you through the treatment options.
Hepatitis C, or hep C, is an infection of the liver that affects millions of people around the world. Many people infected don't experience any significant symptoms during the early stages of the infection. As a result, liver damage can become severe before a diagnosis is given.
Hepatitis C is transferred via blood, usually through sexual intercourse or contact with infected syringes. Infected mothers can pass the infection on to their children. While sufferers can have the infection for many years without experiencing any significant issues, the main symptoms of hep C include chronic fatigue, jaundice, anxiety, weight loss, nausea and discomfort in the upper right portion of the abdomen.
There are six main types of hepatitis C, but the most common in the Western world are genotype 1, genotype 2 and genotype 3.
For many years, standard hepatitis C treatments involved the use of two drugs: pegylated interferon and ribavirin.
Pegylated interferon which are taken as an injection, are the conventional treatment for hepatitis C. Interferons modulate immune system responses, and are therefore used to treat chronic viral infections such as hepatitis C. Ribavirin (taken in capsule form) is an antiviral medication that stops the hepatitis C virus from multiplying. Patients were typically given both these drugs together for several weeks, but they didn't always deliver a cure.
Research into hepatitis C treatments has been continuing. Thankfully, there are several new medications available to sufferers today that deliver faster and more effective results.
The latest drugs are DAAs or Direct Acting Antivirals such as simeprevir, sofosbuvir and daclatasvir. DAAs are highly effectively because they target various steps within the virus’ life cycle, thereby halting its replication. DAAs have fewer side effects, shorter duration of treatment and is a suitable therapy for almost all patients affected by hepatitis C.
The first step involves determining the strain of your virus. Once your doctor has discussed your treatment options, you will start taking your medications. The medications, as described above, are taken as tablets once or twice per day. The treatment lasts between 8 and 48 weeks. Overall treatment duration depends on your hepatitis C genotype and the severity of your condition.
The latest hepatitis C drugs like simeprevir, sofosbuvir and daclatasvir work by giving your immune system a boost. Hep C is a very difficult virus to fight, which is why people live with it for such a long time. Some of the medications prescribed to sufferers equip the immune system to attack the virus, while others are designed to stop hepatitis C from reproducing.
If you are about to embark on a course of hepatitis C treatment, it's best to prepare yourself for a long process. This awful virus is very difficult to remove, and the damage it can leave behind can be life-threatening. Some patients report that the side-effects of hep C drugs are worse than the disease's symptoms. Nevertheless, this virulent virus can cause irreversible damage to the liver, so the faster treatment begins, the better.
While you're taking viral medications for hepatitis C, you may experience flu-like symptoms including headaches, extreme fatigue and fever. There's also a chance that you'll become anaemic, which leaves you feeling tired and out of breath a lot of the time. Other potential side-effects include itchy skin, loss of appetite, depression and anxiety. The road ahead could be tough, so having a support network to help you - both mentally and practically - is very important.
The new treatments available make the hepatitis cure rate as high as 90%. It is worth noting, however, that the effectiveness of your treatment depends on the strain of the virus you have and on the severity of your conditions.
If treatment is not working, your doctor may suggest you repeat it, extend it or try using a different combination of medicines until the virus is successfully cleared.