Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body. The goal of treatment is to have no hepatitis C virus detected in your body at least 12 weeks after you complete treatment.
Although medications to treat hepatitis C have been available for decades and have gradually improved with time, they have had serious side effects and required that a person be treated from 24 to 72 weeks. Side effects included depression, flu-like symptoms, and loss of healthy red or white blood cells (anemia or neutropenia). Therefore many people discontinued treatment.
Researchers have recently made significant advances in treatment for hepatitis C, combining new anti-viral medications with existing ones. As a result, people experience better outcomes, fewer side effects and shorter treatment times — some as short as 12 weeks. Regimens may vary depending on the hepatitis C genotype, presence of existing liver damage, other medical conditions and prior treatments, but they're generally much more effective today than previously.
Due to the pace of research, recommendations for medications and treatment regimens are changing rapidly, and treatment is also quite complex. It is therefore best to discuss your treatment options with a specialist.
Throughout treatment your doctor will monitor your response to medications.
If your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.
For people with hepatitis C infection, a liver transplant is not a cure. Treatment with antiviral medications usually continues after a liver transplant, since hepatitis C infection is likely to recur in the new liver.
Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, your doctor will likely recommend that you receive vaccines against the hepatitis A and B viruses. These are separate viruses that also can cause liver damage and complicate treatment of hepatitis C.
Jan. 15, 2015
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