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How is hepatitis C (HCV) treated?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

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.

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.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

Continue Learning about Hepatitis C

How Do Medications Treat Chronic Hepatitis C?
How Do Medications Treat Chronic Hepatitis C?
How Can I Stay Healthy If I Have Hepatitis C?
How Can I Stay Healthy If I Have Hepatitis C?
What Is the Prognosis for Patients With Hepatitis C?
What Is the Prognosis for Patients With Hepatitis C?
Where Are We with Treatment for Hepatitis C?
Where Are We with Treatment for Hepatitis C?

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.