Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation in the liver. Medications are often prescribed to treat the virus. It’s rare for these medications to lead to serious side effects, but you may notice some mild symptoms.
There are several steps you can take to help you get through treatment. Read about the side effects you may experience and how to deal with them.
Medication side effects
Previously, the main treatment used for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was interferon therapy. This type of therapy is no longer used because of low cure rates and some significant side effects.
The new standard medications prescribed for HCV infection are called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). These medications are highly effective at treating and curing the infection. In general, they do not cause many side effects. The side effects that people do experience are relatively mild.
Side effects of DAAs may include:
Getting enough sleep is important for staying healthy and feeling your best during HCV treatment. Unfortunately, insomnia, or difficulty sleeping, can be one of the side effects of some of the medications.
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, start practicing these good sleeping habits:
- Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time each day.
- Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and other stimulants.
- Keep your sleeping room cool.
- Exercise in the early morning or late afternoon, but not right before bed.
Sleeping pills can also be helpful. Talk to your doctor before starting any sleep medications to make sure there are no known interactions with any medications you’re taking.
Nutrition and diet
Most people with hepatitis C don’t need to follow a special diet, but eating healthy will give you energy and help you feel your best during treatment.
Some medications used to treat hepatitis C may cause you to lose your appetite or feel sick to your stomach.
Ease these symptoms with these tips:
- Eat small meals or snacks every three to four hours, even if you aren’t hungry. Some people feel less sick when they “graze” throughout the day rather than when they eat bigger meals.
- Take a light walk before meals. It might help you to feel hungrier and less nauseous.
- Go easy on fatty, salty, or sugary foods.
- Avoid alcohol.
You may be overwhelmed when you start HCV treatment, and it’s normal to experience feelings of fear, sadness, or anger.
But some medications used to treat hepatitis C can increase your risk of developing these feelings, as well as anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of depression can include:
- feeling sad, anxious, irritable, or hopeless
- losing interest in the things you usually enjoy
- feeling worthless or guilty
- moving slower than usual or finding it hard to sit still
- extreme tiredness or lack of energy
- thinking about death or suicide
If you have symptoms of depression that don’t go away after two weeks, talk with your doctor. They may recommend taking antidepressant medications or speaking with a trained therapist.
Your doctor may also recommend a hepatitis C support group where you can talk with other people going through treatment. Some support groups meet in person, while others meet online.
As you start treatment for hepatitis C, it’s important to take care of your mental and physical health. Some simple steps include eating a healthy diet, getting proper sleep, and speaking with your doctor about any mental health issues you may experience. No matter what symptoms you experience, remember that there are ways to deal with them.