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Hep C Treatment Side Effects Are Typically Mild

Learn what to expect and what to discuss with your healthcare provider.

In some cases, concerns about side effects can prevent a person from seeking treatment that can cure hep C.

Hepatitis C is a serious viral infection that requires treatment.

Caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), hep C causes chronic inflammation in the liver. In over 85 percent of cases, the infection and inflammation become chronic—they persist for years and decades if left untreated, in many cases leading to permanent damage to the liver, severe scarring in the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and liver failure.

There are drugs that can end a hep C infection in over 90 percent of cases. These drugs are called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). They work by interfering with the virus’s ability to replicate itself. This allows the body to clear the infection. The earlier treatment is initiated, the better the chances a person has of avoiding complications.

For DAAs to work effectively, a person must adhere to the treatment plan—they must take every single dose of their medication for the duration of treatment.

While everyone with hep C wants to be cured, there are obstacles that can prevent a person from following their treatment plan. One example is potential side effects from DAA drugs. In some cases, concerns about side effects can prevent people from seeking treatment.

What’s the most important thing to know?

Once you start treating hep C, the most important thing to do is keep taking your medications. Stopping treatment or skipping doses can cause a hep C infection to become resistant to treatment and more difficult to cure.

Tell your healthcare provider if you are having trouble taking your medications for any reason. As with most health conditions, your best source of information about your hep C diagnosis will be your healthcare provider.

Always know the drug you are prescribed, the dosing instructions, the side effects to watch for, and how to contact your healthcare provider.

What are the common effects of DAAs?

Every medication in existence can cause side effects. This fact should not prevent a person from taking a medication that’s prescribed by their healthcare provider—especially when that medication can help them avoid serious complications like those caused by chronic hepatitis C.

Everyone should discuss potential side effects with their healthcare provider any time they are prescribed a medication. Numerous DAA medications are available, and different medications carry different risks for side effects.

In most cases, a healthcare provider will prescribe newer DAA drugs, which cause fewer side effects than older DAA drugs.

Newer drugs cause fewer and less severe side effects. Some of the more common side effects of the newer DAA drugs used to treat hep C include headaches, nausea, insomnia, and fatigue. Most side effects are considered mild.

What should you do if you experience side effects?

If you experience side effects while taking medications to treat hep C, talk to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe medications that can ease side effects or recommend other strategies to ease side effects.

Even if side effects persist, remember that you will only be taking hep C medications for a short period of time. Also remember that hep C treatment gets shorter with every dose you take on time—and that skipping doses or halting treatment means that treatment may take much longer and may not work effectively.

What does your healthcare provider need to know?

You and your healthcare provider should discuss your medical history, including any other health conditions you have.

You should also bring a list of all medications you take—prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements (including herbal supplements). This will help you avoid possible drug interactions.

Tell your healthcare provider if you or your partner are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant—hep C treatments are not approved during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Information.
MedlinePlus. Hepatitis C.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ABCs of Hepatitis – for Health Professionals.
UpToDate.com. Patient education: Hepatitis C (Beyond the Basics).
Christopher E. McGowan and Michael W. Fried. Barriers to Hepatitis C Treatment. Liver International, 2012. Vol. 32, Suppl. 1.
Better Health Channel. Medicines and side effects.
Hepmag.com. Hepatitis C Treatment Side Effects
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Hepatitis C medications: An overview for patients.
Merck Manual Consumer Version. Severity of Adverse Drug Reactions.
American Liver Foundation. Treating Hepatitis C.
Raquel Boff da Costa, Marisa Boff Costa, et al. Direct antiviral agents for hepatitis C and drug interaction risk: A retrospective cohort study with real and simulated data on medication interaction, prevalence of comorbidities and comedications. PLOS ONE. February 12, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Test for Hepatitis C During Every Pregnancy.

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