Hepatitis C Treatment: What Are My Options?
Treating Hep C Infection
Hepatitis C is a serious infection that can lead to liver damage. You may not even know that you have the virus that causes hepatitis C because the condition often has no symptoms.
If your doctor tests you for hepatitis C and you are found to have it, early treatment can make a difference. Click through the slideshow to learn more about your treatment options, including some home remedies that may be helpful.
Do I Need Treatment?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 25 percent of those who contract the hepatitis C virus will recover from it with no treatment at all. These people will not develop a more chronic form of the condition.
What’s more, the CDC notes that if you have acute hepatitis C, this short-term infection cannot adequately be treated with medication. Doctors generally treat only chronic hepatitis C.
If you are diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, your doctor may recommend taking a combination of medicines to try to prevent the virus from harming your liver. These antiviral medicines are called interferon and ribavirin. Treatment with this combo usually lasts between 24 and 48 weeks.
Since these drugs can lead to serious side effects, it’s important to discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Not everyone who has chronic hepatitis C will benefit from taking medicines, according to the CDC.
Do I Need a Transplant?
In more severe cases and in later stages of hepatitis C, you may need a liver transplant. This form of treatment is only used if the virus has caused serious liver damage that may lead to liver failure.
During a transplant procedure, surgeons will remove your injured liver. In its place, you’ll receive a healthy organ from a liver donor. After a transplant, you’ll be prescribed medicines to help ensure the success of the transplant.
As part of your treatment for hepatitis C, you may need to be tested for liver cancer. By performing an ultrasound test on your liver each year (or sometimes as often as every six months), your doctor will be better able to help detect liver cancer.
Having hepatitis C puts you at greater risk for liver cancer. For this reason, getting regular ultrasounds can be an important part of your ongoing treatment.
Are There Home Treatments?
The Mayo Clinic has identified some lifestyle changes you can make to help slow the progression of hepatitis C and keep you healthier:
Be careful with your medicines. Some medicines, even those prescribed by your doctor, may have the side effect of causing liver damage. Talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid certain prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Avoid alcohol. Since drinking alcoholic beverages can increase how quickly liver disease progresses, don’t drink them if you have hepatitis C.
Don’t share. Since the virus can be transmitted through blood, don’t donate blood or share razors.
The Word on Alternatives
While some people believe that certain herbs can aid liver health, the Mayo Clinic confirms that there are no proven alternative medicines or therapies for treating hepatitis C.
Milk thistle is sometimes recommended to treat liver problems. However, the Mayo Clinic confirms that milk thistle has not been shown to be any more effective than placebo for treatment of hepatitis C. This is true no matter what form the herb is taken as, whether capsules or extracts.
You May Not Need It
According to the Mayo Clinic, not everyone who is diagnosed with hepatitis C will benefit from treatment. Your doctor may advise that you simply continue getting regular blood tests, which your doctor can use for helping you avoid liver damage.
Practice prevention and exercise caution when it comes to protecting yourself from hepatitis C. If you are diagnosed with the condition, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any treatments.
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