Treating Chronic Hepatitis C
In this article we discuss the different treatments that are available for treating chronic hepatitis C. We will include how well different medicines work as well as research that has discovered side effects caused by certain medicines.
How to Treat Chronic Hepatitis C
Your doctor will discuss several treatment plans with you, which will work best for you. The treatment plan chosen will highly depend on several factors, such as:
- Amount of damage to your liver
- Your preferences
- Your medical history
The two treatment plans that will be discussed are as follows:
- Treatment straight away – this is usually the treatment when your liver has suffered a lot of damage. In such cases, doctors usually suggest treatment right away.
- Waiting and follow up – if your liver has not suffered a lot of damage and you are in need of treatment right away, your doctor may ask you to wait. This could be years, but during the waiting period, your doctor will contact you on a regular basis in order to check your liver to see if and when you will be needing treatment.
Medicines for Hepatitis C
A combination of medicines is used in order to treat chronic hepatitis C. Some work by helping the immune system to fight the virus, whereas others focus on targeting the virus itself. The two therapies that are currently used to treat people with the disease are:
- Dual Therapy – this consists of an interferon and ribavirin
- Triple Therapy – this consists of an interferon, ribavirin, boceprevir or telaprevir
Treatment usually lasts six to twelve months and it is recommending taking the treatments as your doctor has prescribed them. You should never change the dose or stop taking the medicines without prior consent from your doctor. You should also ask your doctor if it is okay to take these medicines alongside any other medication you may be taking. Before taking any vitamin supplements or herbal remedies, it is important you discuss this with your doctor. These could react negatively with your medication for hepatitis C and may even cause severe damage to the liver.
Once you have completed the therapy, your doctor will take a blood test to see whether the virus has cleared. If the hepatitis C virus is not found in your blood six months after ending the treatment, then it has been cleared. This also means that the virus will not return, but you always need to take precautions in order to prevent being re-infected.
Side Effects of Medicines
Combining ribavirin and interferon may lead to several side effects, such as:
- Muscle aches
- Losing appetite
- Hair loss
- Skin reaction at injection site
Side effects that are less common, but severe include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Severe depression
- High blood sugar
- Thyroid problems
- Less white blood cells – ones that fight infection
- Nerve problems
- Serious eye problems
- Anemia – less red blood cells – those that carry oxygen around the body
- Liver damage
- Inflammation of pancreas and bowels
- Serious skin reactions
- Lung problems
- Problems with gums or teeth
- Serious allergic reactions – swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat, tongue
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
If you find the current treatments available are not working for you, you can always try therapies that come out new for the future. Scientists are always looking to develop treatments with fewer side effects; these are also more effective.