Medications for hepatitis C are easy to take and very effective.
Today, there are very effective medications available to treat hepatitis C. The earlier you start treatment, the better your outcomes are more likely to be. That’s important since untreated hepatitis C can have serious risks to your health.
Early treatment can also help prevent the spread of hepatitis C to others. This is especially important if you engage in high-risk activities like injection drug use.
How does chronic hepatitis C affect health?
Chronic hepatitis C can cause inflammation around the liver. This constant inflammation causes scarring of the lung tissue (cirrhosis). Scarred tissue doesn’t function as well as regular tissue. As a result, your liver may start working less well than before.
If this continues, it may progress to end-stage liver disease, known as liver failure. This means the liver has completely stopped working. You need a functioning liver to live.
Serious liver damage also increases the risk of liver cancer. Both liver failure and liver cancer can be life threatening.
How does hepatitis C treatment improve liver health?
Treatment for hepatitis C is called direct-acting antiviral medication. These are oral pills that help cure hepatitis C in the body.
The best time to treat hepatitis C is during the acute stage. This is in the first six months of infection. During acute hepatitis C, long-term liver damage has not begun. Liver damage begins during chronic hepatitis C.
Direct-acting antiviral medications can also help treat chronic hepatitis C. It can also help prevent further liver damage. For this reason, it’s important to start treatment for chronic hepatitis C as soon as possible.
How do I know if I have hepatitis C?
The best way to catch hepatitis C is with testing. All adults should receive a hepatitis C test at least once in their lifetime. People who have additional risk factors may need more frequent testing. Talk to your doctor about what the recommended testing schedule is for you based on your risk factors.
Dr. Sinha specializes in internal medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Viral hepatitis: testing recommendations.
- MedlinePlus. (2016). Cirrhosis.
- MedlinePlus. (2016). Liver diseases.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Hepatitis C basic information.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Viral hepatitis and liver disease: Classification of direct-acting antiviral agents in HCV treatment regimens.