Hepatitis C virus (HCV) medications can cause side effects like fatigue and nausea. You may be able to manage medication side effects with changes to your eating plan and other strategies.

In most cases, treatment with direct-acting antiviral medications can cure infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). But it may also cause some side effects. The side effects you experience can depend on the medication a doctor prescribes.

Early treatment for hepatitis C can reduce your risk of liver damage. Without treatment, the complications of hepatitis C can become severe, increasing your risk of liver cancer and liver failure.

A doctor can help you understand your treatment options and the risk of side effects. Here are some questions you can ask to learn about the side effects that you might experience, as well as strategies for managing them.

Before you begin a new course of treatment for hepatitis C, you can talk with a medical professional about what to expect from your treatment plan. The recommended treatment plan depends on:

The risk of side effects varies from one antiviral medication to another, and not every person has the same side effects from the same medication.

Doctors treat HCV with newer generations of antiviral medications. These newer drugs are more effective and tend to be easier to tolerate than older medications. But they can still cause effects that some people find hard to manage.

Common side effects of antiviral treatment include:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headache

In some cases, doctors may prescribe pegylated interferon and ribavirin to treat hepatitis C. These older medications can cause significant side effects. If your doctor prescribes pegylated interferon and ribavirin, you might also experience:

  • skin symptoms, such as dry skin, itchy skin, and hair loss
  • flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, and muscle aches
  • respiratory symptoms, such as cough, runny nose, and sore throat
  • psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and irritability

In rare cases, you might develop serious side effects from treatment, such as severe anemia. Some medications, such as ribavirin, also raise the risk of significant birth defects. If you or your partner is pregnant or can become pregnant, let your doctor know. They typically recommend using two forms of birth control.

If you have side effects from treatment

If you experience any side effects from treatment for hepatitis C, it’s best to talk with your doctor. They can help manage side effects by making changes to prescribed medications, recommending lifestyle changes, or recommending other medications to treat the side effects.

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It’s common to feel tired when you’re going through treatment for hepatitis C. You may be able to better manage fatigue by:

  • trying to get more sleep at night
  • taking breaks and naps during the day
  • going for daily walks to increase your alertness
  • adjusting your schedule or workload to allow more time for rest

If your doctor suspects the fatigue is caused by anemia, depression, or another condition, they may order tests or adjust your treatment plan.

Some antiviral treatments cause insomnia or mood changes that can keep you awake at night. To help manage this symptom, you can try:

  • adjusting your sleep schedule
  • taking fewer or shorter naps during the day
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals, or excess fluids in the hours before bedtime
  • reducing screen time with smartphones, handheld devices, and television in the hours before bedtime.
  • practicing deep breathing or other relaxation techniques before you go to sleep

If these strategies aren’t enough, a doctor might prescribe medications to help you sleep.

If you experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after starting treatment, let your doctor know. They might encourage you to make changes to your diet or eating habits or prescribe medications that may help.

Some methods to reduce nausea include:

  • eating smaller meals
  • eating bland foods, such as bananas, apple sauce, white rice, and white bread
  • avoiding spicy foods, greasy foods, or other foods that upset your stomach
  • sipping clear liquids to replace fluids lost through vomiting or diarrhea

Depending on your prescribed treatment plan, it might also help to take medication with food. A doctor can let you know if you should take your medication with food or on an empty stomach.

Some people develop headaches during treatment for hepatitis C. To help prevent and relieve headaches, you can try:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • lying down in a dark quiet room to rest
  • applying a cool cloth to your forehead or the back of your neck
  • taking ibuprofen or other over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers

Some OTC relievers may be hard on your liver or interact with other medications that you take. Before you take pain relievers, ask a doctor or pharmacist if they’re safe for you.

If you develop other side effects from treatment, let your doctor know. Depending on your specific symptoms, they might:

  • order tests to determine the cause of your symptoms
  • encourage you to adjust your daily habits to prevent or relieve the symptoms
  • advise you to use OTC medications to treat symptoms
  • make changes to your treatment plan

You may be able to manage the side effects of treatment by adjusting your daily routine. But in some cases, your doctor might need to change your treatment plan.

Ask your doctor what to look out for. They can give you advice about when you should contact them or seek emergency medical care for suspected side effects.

If you have severe vomiting or nausea and are unable to keep food or liquids down, let your doctor know.

Does treatment for hep C make you sick?

You may have side effects from treatment for hepatitis C. This can depend on your specific treatment plan and other factors. Possible side effects from direct-acting antiviral medications can include fatigue, nausea, and headache.

How do you feel after hep C treatment?

You may feel tired, nauseous, or have a headache following treatment for hepatitis C with direct-acting antivirals. Pegylated interferon and ribavirin may cause more severe symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, skin symptoms, and psychological symptoms.

How long is the recovery from hep C treatment?

The amount of time you take medication for hepatitis C can vary depending on your specific treatment plan but ranges between 8 and 24 weeks. You may have side effects while taking hepatitis C medications. Lifestyle behaviors, like taking naps or eating smaller meals, may help reduce treatment side effects.

What are the side effects of direct-acting antivirals?

Direct-acting antivirals can cause side effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and difficulty sleeping.

When you’re receiving treatment for hepatitis C, you may develop side effects. Newer antiviral medications tend to cause mild to moderate side effects that often get better within a few weeks.

But in some cases, you might experience more serious side effects. A doctor can explain the potential risks of your treatment plan. Be sure to let them know if you think you’ve developed side effects, as they may be able to recommend ways to manage them.