Hepatitis C is a chronic viral infection that affects liver health. It develops from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). A person can transmit HCV through contact with blood from someone who has the infection. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can lead to life threatening conditions like:

  • cirrhosis
  • severe liver damage
  • liver cancer
  • the need for a liver transplant

The earlier you treat hepatitis C, the less it affects your body over time. Your liver may be able to heal itself if you receive treatment in the initial stages of the disease.

There are currently many types of antiviral treatments that can cure hepatitis C in a matter of weeks, and they may lead to improved symptoms and physical and mental well-being.

After your treatment for hepatitis C, your doctor will test you to determine its success. This will occur 12 weeks after treatment. Without this confirmation, you usually won’t know whether the treatment worked.

A successful hepatitis C treatment typically results in a sustained virologic response (SVR). An SVR status means that there is no detectable level of the virus in your blood and that your condition is cured.

Treatments for hepatitis C are typically more effective than ever before. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there is a 95 percent chance your condition may be cured with an antiviral treatment that lasts 8 to 24 weeks.

After treatment, however, you can be susceptible to getting hepatitis C again. Therefore, it’s important to avoid exposure to other people’s blood. This exposure can occur if you share injectable needles, for instance.

Even if your final blood test indicates an SVR, your doctor may advise you on whether you need to continue medical treatment or monitor for conditions caused by hepatitis C. Depending on your individual condition, you may not need any further medical follow-ups after treatment.

In some cases, you may not have a successful hepatitis C treatment. This can happen for a few reasons, including having a difficult time following the entire treatment protocol, virus mutations, or genetics. Your doctor can discuss your options, and you may undergo the same treatment again or try another alternative.

The antiviral treatments for hepatitis C are usually very successful, but that doesn’t mean they are always effective, and there is a lack of research on the long-term outlook of the treatment.

For example, a small 2019 study found that you could develop an occult infection of hepatitis C many years after curing the condition, but it did not lead to serious liver conditions. An occult infection of hepatitis C is an infection that develops when the RNA of the virus is in the liver cells and some others, but not in the blood.

The same study above also indicated you may have a higher chance of liver cancer even after treatment. It concluded that more research needs to be done in these areas.

Another risk related to treatment is that people who have both hepatitis C and underlying hepatitis B can experience a reactivation or a flare of hepatitis B while receiving hepatitis C treatment.

The flare typically occurs within a few weeks after you start taking medication for hepatitis C. If you happen to have chronic hepatitis B in addition to hepatitis C, it could be helpful to contact a hepatitis expert before starting your treatment for hepatitis C. The expert may suggest that you start taking hepatitis B treatment to prevent a flare.

You may contract HCV if you use injectable drugs and share needles with others. A 2020 study found many positive outcomes among people using injectable drugs who decided to get treatment for hepatitis C. These included:

  • an optimistic outlook on the future
  • improved self-esteem
  • a newfound belief in their abilities
  • confident feelings
  • improved energy levels

The study also found that people no longer using injectable drugs after treatment experienced more beneficial outcomes than people still using them.

Treatment for hepatitis C can occur through your doctor. They will often discuss the scope of treatment, including the medications to take, the timeline for treatment, and when to have appointments during the process.

Your doctor can also recommend a treatment based on your specific type of hepatitis C, the amount of liver damage you have, and whether you underwent any previous treatments for hepatitis C.

Treatment includes medications as well as routine laboratory tests to monitor your progress. It’s important to follow all aspects of the treatment plan to increase your chance of an SVR.

Your doctor’s office may also be able to answer questions about how to pay for treatment. Often, private or government insurance covers hepatitis C treatment partially or entirely.

It’s important to stay on top of your multiweek treatment for hepatitis C, which may increase your chance of a favorable outlook. Here are some tips you can try to help manage the challenges of treatment:

  • Stay organized by keeping paperwork in one place.
  • Add medication and appointment reminders to your calendar or smartphone.
  • Communicate with your doctor and other people on your medical team during treatment when you have questions or concerns.
  • Ask your doctor about any medications, supplements, or herbal remedies to avoid, as some may be potentially harmful to the liver.
  • Manage side effects as recommended by your doctor. Find out what over-the-counter medications you can take to treat them.
  • Focus on your health — try to eat a well-rounded, nutritious diet, exercise the best you can, and get enough sleep during treatment.
  • Avoid alcohol to reduce stress on the liver during treatment.

Hepatitis C treatment is generally very effective in curing the condition. Treating the condition avoids further liver damage and contributes to your overall well-being. If you have hepatitis C, try to talk with your doctor to begin a treatment plan right away. Treatment can improve your health and reduce the chance of passing the condition to others.