Can Hepatitis C Be Cured?
Is There a Cure?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, it’s natural to wonder if the condition can be cured. As a viral infection that can attack and damage the liver, hepatitis C is one of the most serious hepatitis viruses.
Click through the slideshow to learn more about whether hepatitis C can be cured, and what you can do to help prevent it.
Does Everyone Need Treatment?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that up to one out of four people who contract the hepatitis C virus will eventually be cured from the condition without treatment.
This fortunate minority will avoid having the infection become chronic and more serious. Although it’s possible for the virus disappear in this way, it’s not clear what causes the infection to go away for this group.
The most common form of treatment for the more chronic form of hepatitis C is a combination of the antiviral medicines ribavirin and interferon. The goal of treatment with these medications is to rid your body of the virus.
These drugs can slow down (and in some cases stop) the virus’ attack on your liver. Your doctor or a liver specialist will monitor your treatment to determine its effectiveness.
What About Vaccine Prevention?
Although prevention is often the best cure, there is currently no vaccine to help protect people from getting hepatitis C. There are vaccines for other hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A and hepatitis B. According to the CDC, researchers are working toward developing a vaccine for hepatitis C as well.
However, if you do get diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor may advise you to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. This is because these viruses can also lead to liver damage and complications during treatment of hepatitis C.
Cure Through Transplant?
If you develop chronic hepatitis C—an infection that becomes long-lasting and can lead to liver cancer or liver failure—you may need a liver transplant.
A liver transplant removes a damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy organ. But the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) notes that it’s possible for hepatitis C to return even after a transplant. To make the treatment effective, it will be important to take the medications that your doctor prescribes in order to keep you healthy.
Certain forms of alternative medicine are believed by some to help cure hepatitis C.
However, the Mayo Clinic reports that there are not yet any research-proven forms of alternative treatment or complementary medicine for hepatitis C.
Milk thistle is an herb commonly suggested to help cure liver disease. But a study published in JAMA found that milk thistle was no more effective than a placebo in treating patients with hepatitis C.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s definitely possible to have a positive response to treatment of hepatitis C. A successful treatment means that the hepatitis C virus can’t be detected in your blood anymore.
The NIH also notes that because new treatments are in development by researchers who are trying to cure hepatitis C, the outlook for patients is getting better as well.
Use as Directed
The NIH advises anyone with hepatitis C to follow instructions from your doctor and healthcare team for any recommended treatment regimens. Antiviral drugs and other treatments must be taken the correct way to be effective.
Similarly, if you have a liver transplant, the procedure’s success requires taking certain medications afterward. These medications can help reduce the chances of the virus returning. If in doubt, be sure to ask your doctor about the most effective way to manage your treatments.
- Fried, M.W. et al. (2012, July 18). Effect of silymarin (milk thistle) on liver disease in patients with chronic hepatitis C unsuccessfully treated with interferon therapy: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 308(3), 274-282. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22797645
- Hepatitis C. (2012, November 16). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000284.htm
- Hepatitis C: Alternative medicine. (2013, August 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097/DSECTION=alternative%2Dmedicine
- Hepatitis C: Definition. (2013, August 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097
- Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public. (2012, October 22). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/cfaq.htm
- Hepatitis C: Lifestyle and home remedies. (2013, August 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097/DSECTION=lifestyle%2Dand%2Dhome%2Dremedies
- Hepatitis C: Prevention. (2013, August 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097/DSECTION=prevention
- Hepatitis C: Symptoms. (2013, August 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097/DSECTION=symptoms
- Hepatitis C: Treatments and drugs. (2013, August 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097/DSECTION=treatments%2Dand%2Ddrugs
- What I need to know about Hepatitis C. (2012, December 19). National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hepc_ez/