Hepatitis C Treatment: Medications and Lifestyle Changes
The history of hepatitis C treatment officially started around the beginning of the 20th century, though the condition has existed before this. For the longest time, the main medications used for stopping this virus offered only a moderate success rate and carried potentially dangerous side effects. The 21st century has changed everything with its advancements that allowed developing much more effective medications, including an interferon-free hepatitis C treatment.
It’s important to understand that hep C is no regular disease. It affects the body on many levels and can cause a variety of negative consequences. Therefore, its treatment is usually complicated by the necessity of curing the conditions caused by it. Lifestyle changes are also an essential element of hep C therapy as some habits reduce the efficiency of drugs.
What Is the Hepatitis C Virus and How Do Its Treatments Work?
Before you start wondering what hep C medications are like, you need to understand the virus itself and its actions in the body. Hepatitis C is a single-stranded RNA-virus. Once it gets inside the body, it attaches to the liver cells and starts changing them.
The virus mutates rapidly, which is the main reason why hepatitis C symptoms are so varied and its side effects differ greatly. Some of the most dangerous conditions caused by this disease include liver cancers, cirrhosis, and acute liver failure. It can also contribute to the development of diabetes and a variety of other conditions.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis C often go unnoticed or are mistaken for other conditions. Therefore, it’s extremely difficult to notice the disease unless the patient goes through a specialized screening. Even taking a hepatitis C antibody test doesn’t offer a 100% guarantee of catching the disease, because the virus might take up to 70 days to show up on test results.
So, when you ask “what is hepatitis C?”, the answer is along the lines of “an extremely dangerous and unpredictable virus that is very difficult to diagnose.” Its treatments are based on anti-viral agents that hinder the development of the disease. However, only a few of them can restore the damaged liver cells to some degree.
Hepatitis C Treatment: Anti-Viral Medications
The basis of any hepatitis C therapy are specialized anti-viral drugs. The most popular hep C cure today is based on a combination of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir. The drug called Harvoni is the #1 pill that contains both these elements and is approved to treat hepatitis C genotype 1, 4, 5, and 6 with a varied degree of efficiency.
This particular medication is extremely expensive (over $90,000 per a single course). However, there is a more affordable generic alternative to it available today. The reason why a ledipasvir/sofosbuvir drug is the leader of the hepatitis medications industry is that it can both prevent the spreading of the virus and help repair the damage caused by it. Before Harvoni, the vast majority of HCV positive patients had to take at least two anti-viral drugs to effectively stop the progression of the virus.
Interferon-based hepatitis C treatments used to be the only viable medication and they are still popular, especially in developing countries where the number of HCV positive people is the highest. Despite their relative efficiency (with success rates up to 75%), they cause a variety of dangerous side effects. They also take longer and require at least one additional drug for effective hep C treatment.
Interferon-free hep C therapies are not only more effective but also much safer for the patient. They do have some side effects, like nausea, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, etc. However, they are milder and relatively rare.
Please note that any form of HCV medication might have potentially dangerous interactions with other drugs. Therefore, it’s imperative to inform your doctor about any drugs, medications, and supplements you take.
Other Types of Hepatitis C Treatments
Anti-viral drugs are the primary and most effective kind of treatment used for hepatitis C virus. However, there are other forms of therapy that may be used in complement or instead of drugs. The best course of action is always determined by the doctor based on the patient’s condition, complications, personal factors, and medical history.
Liver transplants are often used as a part of treatment for patients suffering from cirrhosis. Unfortunately, the statistics say that the virus recurs in about 90% of cases. Therefore, the surgery must be combined with the specialized pharmaceutical treatment of the virus. The schedule of this program must be developed carefully and the patient must remain under observation for specific periods to reduce the risk of complications.
Some patients choose to seek hepatitis C treatments in alternative medicine. However, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that any of these therapies have any kind of effect on the virus. Please beware of the unregistered supplements as they often don’t match the contents listed on the label. This means that the product may have an unpredictable and potentially dangerous reaction when combined with other medications.
What Your Doctor Needs to Know Before Prescribing Hepatitis C Treatment
Being honest with your doctor is a must if you want to learn how to cure hepatitis C and get rid of the virus effectively. Test results alone won’t provide your doctor with all the necessary information to develop a treatment plan that will actually work.
This professional also needs to know:
- Whether you suffer from any additional health conditions both caused by and unrelated to hepatitis C.
- Your full medical history, including diseases experienced long in the past and history of treatments.
- A list of medications, over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbal and other supplements you take.
- For the patients with a history of drug use, the doctor must be informed about the type of substances you’ve taken.
All medicines prescribed in the course of your hepatitis C treatment must be taken exactly as instructed. If you develop any symptoms or side effects after starting the medication, you need to inform the doctor immediately.
Please note that due to the nature of many hepatitis C medications, some unpleasant side effects are inevitable. This means that you may have to take the drug regardless of discomfort. It might be advised to withhold from driving and other potentially dangerous activities during this time.
Treatment of hepatitis C includes taking regular blood and other tests. First of all, you’ll need to confirm the presence of the virus and determine its genotype. During the course of the therapy tests are necessary for monitoring the progress. Your doctor may extend or cut short the therapy and/or replace the drugs depending on your reaction.
Be advised that in a small number of cases the treatment may fail to be effective. The success rate varies depending on the HCV virus genotype, medications used, and some other factors. The most common type of hep C virus, genotype 1, has a success rate of almost 99% when treated with Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir).
It’s also essential to understand that current hepatitis C treatments are targeted towards the chronic disease. They are more effective when started early. This is a very important factor to consider as sometimes HCV symptoms show after decades of the disease development.
There is a common myth that the hepatitis C treatment success is also influenced by the patient’s race. Historically, HCV is more difficult to treat in the patients of African descent. It’s believed that this innate resistance is caused by frequent hep C epidemics in the region that affected the local residents on a deep enough level to influence their DNA. However, current studies indicate that there is no difference in success rates for the treatment of Caucasians, Africans, or Latinos.
Lifestyle Changes that Help with Hepatitis C Treatment
Drinking alcohol and some other habits reduce the efficiency of any hepatitis C treatment and increase the risk of serious consequences like cancer and cirrhosis by up to 70%. Therefore, any effective hep C therapy should be complemented with lifestyle changes that will aid the medication in your body.
The most important habits one needs to develop or drop to cure hepatitis C are:
- Quit drinking.
Alcohol in itself poses the danger of cirrhosis, and when combined with a ‘liver-eating’ disease like hepatitis C, it leads to this condition in almost 100% of cases.
- Quit drugs.
Don’t forget that intravenous drug use is the cause of hep C in 62% of cases in the US. Curing one type of hepatitis doesn’t make you immune to the virus, so you can contract it again with more serious consequences.
- Quit smoking.
Although not as dangerous as alcohol, smoking does reduce the efficiency of certain hep C medications and increases the risk of dangerous side effects of the disease.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Proper nutrition will help you restore the liver function and improve your overall well-being post-therapy. Be sure to consult a professional nutritionist as well as your doctor in order to develop a meal plan that would work best for you personally.
A person suffering from hepatitis C can lead an active and full life. However, you shouldn’t forget that this disease is highly contagious. The virus is blood-borne, so make sure to prevent any contact between the patient’s blood and uninfected people. The HCV-positive person also must not share their personal items, such as toothbrushes, manicure and pedicure tools, etc.
Hepatitis C Treatment During Pregnancy
Treating hepatitis C virus during pregnancy is generally not recommended because many of the anti-viral drugs are harmful to the fetus. In these cases, the treatment should be delayed until the woman has given birth.
It’s possible to pass the virus to the child during birth, so the necessary measures must be taken to reduce this risk. HCV positive women shouldn’t be nursing as the baby might contract the infection through minor cracks on the nipples.
A woman is usually advised to use a variety of contraceptive methods during hepatitis C treatment as well as take regular pregnancy tests.
HCV positive men taking ribavirin or some other HCV medications shouldn’t have sexual intercourse with pregnant women without using a condom. Their non-pregnant partners may need to take regular pregnancy tests as well to ensure the treatment is stopped as quickly as possible after conception.
Deciding Against HCV Treatment
Hepatitis C is an infection that may lead to fatal consequences. However, it’s possible to live with the disease. In some cases, this is the only solution as the benefits of treatment cannot outweigh the risks to the patient’s health.
People may also choose not to undergo treatment due to personal reasons or because they don’t have any symptoms. It should be noted that in less than 10% of cases the infection may disappear on its own, without any anti-viral treatment. The scientists have yet to discover the reason for it or find a way to predict this outcome.
Every HCV positive patient should be informed about the potential risks they will face by deciding against the treatment. The person needs to make this decision out of their own volition and after studying all the relevant information about possible consequences.
For a while, one of the reasons that pushed many people to decline medications was the high cost of the new HCV drugs. This used to be a very serious issue as the more affordable interferon-based therapies are much more dangerous and less effective. They also can’t be used in conjunction with many health conditions. A generic ledipasvir and sofosbuvir alternative is an effective solution to this problem that will help thousands of people get the help they need.
How to Cure Hepatitis C Affordably
Hepatitis C is an insidious disease that can go unnoticed for decades. During this time, it will gradually destroy liver cells, causing serious damage and side effects that bring about over a million deaths per year.
If you fall into the high-risk group for contracting hepatitis C or experience any symptoms indicative of this disease, be sure to take the hep C test. With the treatment more available, you have the best chance of recovery if you get the necessary help early.
To learn more about the generic Harvoni alternative, contact us anytime!