How is hepatitis C (HCV) treated?

While detection and diagnosis of acute hepatitis C is rare, there is effective treatment: administration of peginterferon or peginterferon/ribavirin for 24 weeks. Treatment is more than 90 percent effective if administered within 12 weeks of onset of acute hepatitis. Your doctor may also recommend fluids and good nutrition.

Most people who receive treatment for hepatitis C have chronic hepatitis, though not everyone with chronic hepatitis C requires treatment with medications. Current first-line antiviral therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are peginterferon/ribavirin with either telaprevir or boceprevir for hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 and peginterferon/ribavirin for HCV genotypes 2 or 3.

In addition to drug therapy, you should get plenty of rest and avoid any substances that are toxic to the liver, such as alcohol and cigarettes. If you have chronic hepatitis C, you should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Discuss any over-the-counter or prescription remedies with your healthcare provider before taking them.

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Treatment for hepatitis C will depend upon the type of infection and whether you have the chronic or acute virus.

In many cases of acute (short-term) hepatitis C infection, symptoms subside within weeks or months without treatment. Your doctor may want to monitor your liver using liver function tests until it is fully recovered.

If you have chronic hepatitis C, your doctor will need to treat your infection with antiviral medications to clear the virus and decrease the impact the virus has on your liver. The treatment options available are changing rapidly, but in general they consist of various combinations of antiviral medications that are taken orally. The best regimen for you will depend on your genotype and medical history. Peginterferon, which used to be the primary treatment for hepatitis C, now is used only for certain patients, because the interferon-free regimens generally are more effective and easier to tolerate.

These newer drug regimens can cure the infection in most people, with cure rates exceeding 90% in certain groups. In severe cases of chronic hepatitis C, liver failure or liver cancer may require a liver transplant.

Acute hepatitis C may not require treatment, because the infection may resolve on its own. Doctors may suggest waiting several months before beginning treatment.

Chronic hepatitis C is treated with drugs that eliminate the virus. The combination of drugs used depends on the specific type of the hepatitis C virus (genotype) people have, what drugs they can tolerate and what treatments they've had before. Newer antiviral drugs that have become available in recent years have dramatically improved hepatitis C treatment, shortening the course of treatment, lessening the side effects and leading to cure rates exceeding 90% in many groups.

The drug regimens make all-oral, interferon-free treatments possible for most people with hepatitis C. A liver transplant may be necessary if chronic hepatitis C causes liver failure. Liver transplantation surgery replaces the failed liver with a healthy one from a donor. Drug treatment often must continue because hepatitis C usually returns after surgery.

This information is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is treated with direct-acting antivirals that work right on the replication process of the hepatitis C virus, preventing its replication and ultimately eradicating the virus. The treatment duration can range from 8 weeks to 24 weeks depending on whether the person has cirrhosis and the medication being used. The medications are covered by insurance, and they also show a cure rate of  between 90 and 100 percent. So, the treatment is not a long duration. The medications are very well tolerated in most cases and have a high cure rate.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.