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Hepatitis C Treatments (The Basics)

by Andrea Greengard

Should I be treated for hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a serious infection and a major cause of liver disease. Treatment is safe and works very well. Everyone with hepatitis C should think about getting treatment. Your doctor or nurse can talk to you about the different options and what would work best for you.

How is hepatitis C treated?

There are different medicines to treat hepatitis C. Some of them only work on certain forms of the hepatitis C virus. The best medicines for you depend on:

  • What type of hepatitis C you have (there are several types; type 1 is the most common in the United States)
  • If you have been treated for hepatitis C before
  • How much liver damage you have
  • What other health problems you have
  • What other medicines you take

You will likely have to take a combination of 2 or more medicines. The medicines come in pill form. Sometimes, 2 or more medicines are combined into 1 pill. Treatment usually lasts 3 months. But for some people, it can be as short as 2 months.

If you are being treated for hepatitis C, it is very important that you:

  • Take all your medicines exactly how your doctor or nurse tells you to
  • Never skip doses
  • Never stop any of your medicines unless your doctor or nurse tells you to

What happens if I do not take hepatitis medicines as directed?

If you take these medicines the wrong way, they probably will not work as well as they should. You can also end up doing yourself more harm than good. With some of the medicines, if people skip doses or do not take all their medicines, the hepatitis C virus can quickly become “resistant.” That means the virus learns to outsmart the medicines, and so the medicines will not work.

To help you remember to take all of your medicines at the right time, use special reminders called “memory aids.” For instance, use a “talking” pill box, wrist watch, or smart phone app that can be set to tell you when it’s time to take your pills.

Do the medicines for hepatitic C cause side effects?

Yes, they can cause side effects, but most of them are not serious. Some of the medicines used to treat hepatitis can make you tired or sick to your stomach, or give you headaches. If you are being treated for hepatitis C, tell your doctor or nurse any time you get a side effect that bothers you.

In very rare cases, people need to stop taking their medicines because of side effects. But do not stop taking your medicines because of side effects until you speak with your doctor or nurse. Only he or she can tell if you need to stop the medicines. Besides, your doctor or nurse might have a way to deal with the side effects so that you can keep taking the medicines. For example, if you are sick to your stomach, your doctor or nurse might give you a medicine to help with that. The point is, there are ways to deal with side effects so that you are comfortable enough to keep taking your medicines.

Even if your doctor can’t make your side effects go away completely, remember that you only need to take these medicines for a short time. If you put up with some side effects, there is a good chance your hepatitis C will be cured.

What if I already take other medicines?

Some hepatitis C medicines can cause serious problems when they are taken with certain other medicines. Or they might not work as well when taken with certain other medicines. These are called “drug interactions.” To prevent problems due to drug interactions, review a list of all of your medicines, including herbal and non-prescription medicines, with your doctor whenever you start a new medicine. You can find an example of this kind of list at the following website.

If you are thinking about trying any new medicine, vitamin, or herbal product on your own, talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist first.

Will I be cured?

If you take your medicines exactly the way you are supposed to, the chances of being cured are very good. People who have not been treated for hepatitis C before are cured over 90 percent of the time. People who have failed treatment before or who have cirrhosis have a slightly lower chance of cure.

At least 3 to 6 months after you finish treatment, your doctor or nurse will give you a blood test to see if you are cured. If you are not cured after your first course of treatment, he or she might suggest trying treatment again or waiting for new medicines to come out.

Even if you are cured of hepatitis C, this does not protect you from getting infected again. You can get hepatitis C again if you have contact with the blood of someone who has the virus.

This article has basic information on the medicines used to treat hepatitis C. For more detailed information about your medicines, ask your doctor or nurse for information.

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