Hep C Treatments
Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease that occurs in more than 3.5 million Americans. The results of not treating hepatitis C include massive health problems that can include liver cancer and severe liver damage requiring a transplant. Fortunately, this disease is not passed from person to person through casual contact. Instead, hepatitis C is contracted through infected blood. Individuals can get the hepatitis C virus through sexual contact, shared hypodermic needles, blood transfusions, and contaminated tattoo needles. Newborn babies can also contract hepatitis C from their mothers during the birthing process. In the past, hepatitis C could not be cured and required painful injections to manage the infection. However, recent medical research and advances can eradicate hepatitis C from the body in as little as three months.
Symptoms of hepatitis C can easily be overlooked, which is dangerous for those with the virus. Many patients experience stomach pain, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite. Jaundice is also a common condition for patients with hepatitis C, in which the whites of the eyes and skin turn yellow because the liver is not working correctly. The hepatitis C virus is easily detected in blood tests, and patients can be diagnosed with acute or chronic hep C. Patients who are at risk through drug use and sexual contact should be tested right away. Physicians also recommend that patients born between 1945 and 1965 should get tested, as well as those who have HIV or have been on kidney dialysis.
While the medical community looks forward to the development of a hepatitis C vaccine, there is not one readily available. Instead, the Food and Drug Administration has approved several medications to help cure patients of this virus. The type of hepatitis C medication given to patients depends on a number of factors, including the type of virus, whether there is liver damage, the viral load, the strain of the virus, and any other health conditions. The viral load refers to how much virus inhabits the body. Medications for hepatitis C include combinations of Harvoni, Zepatier, and Daklinza.
Harmony is a pill taken once a day that has been proven to cure the hepatitis C infection in two to three months. This medication combines two drugs, ledipasvir and sofosbuvir. The Food and Drug Administration gave approval in January of 2016 for Zepatier. Taken once a day, this pill combines elbasvir and grazopevir to cure the virus in almost 100 percent of the patients treated. Daklinza was approved in 2015 to treat hepatitis C infections. This is given with sofosbuvir to achieve cure rates up to 98%. Interferon and ribavirin are traditional medications that may also work for the treatment of hepatitis C in some patients.
While these medications are generally effective, there are cases in which they don’t work as well as anticipated. If the first round of medications does not get rid of the hepatitis C virus, patients can decide how to proceed with treatment. Doctors and patients can decide together whether to try a different round of medication, which depends on overall health of the patient and quality of life. Patients may instead decide to make the most of palliative care, which helps offset the symptoms of the disease. While palliative care doesn’t eradicate the virus, patients can live as long as 20 years with hepatitis C before experiencing severe liver damage.