How to Deal With Your Hep C Fatigue

Learn why hep C causes fatigue and what you can do about it.

How to Deal With Your Hep C Fatigue

Medically reviewed in September 2021

Hepatitis C is just one in a family of viruses that invades the liver, leading to complications such as inflammation, cirrhosis and, in some cases, liver failure or cancer. Known for its slow, nearly silent progression, the virus can go undetected for years before symptoms start to surface. The most common—and usually most troubling—of those is fatigue.

Many reasons for hep C fatigue
A number of factors contribute to hep C’s debilitating fatigue. Though research is conflicting, some experts believe that the virus itself brings on fatigue. In the early, acute stage of the illness, some people have flu-like symptoms caused by the attack on the liver and the body’s response to the virus. Many people have no symptoms for many years after that, yet up to half experience extreme tiredness at times.

Another possibility is psychological: People may become depressed when they learn they have a serious, chronic illness. That stress and sadness could contribute to the overall feeling of weakness and exhaustion. Drug or alcohol abuse, both common among people with hep C, could also play a role.

Without treatment, the infection eventually also causes cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, and fatigue is a common struggle for people with cirrhosis. Meanwhile, interferon, formerly the best medication available for most people with hep C, is notorious for causing crippling fatigue and other severe side effects.

Try these energy boosters
Whatever the cause of your fatigue, there are many lifestyle fixes you can make right now to lessen its impact and to help you get back on your feet.

Maintain a healthy weight. If you have hepatitis C and suffer severe tiredness, it’s important to keep your weight in check, as obesity also contributes to fatigue.

It may sound counterintuitive to get moving when you’re tired, but regular exercise boosts energy levels and contributes to your overall well-being, not to mention helping you control your weight. If strenuous cardio isn’t an option, try walking. Experts have found that patients with hepatitis C who walked 10,000 steps three days a week greatly improved their energy levels. Walking 4,000 to 7,500 steps daily has been found to be effective for overall health.

Avoid alcohol. Not only does alcohol further damage your liver cells, imbibing also makes you feel more tired and can contribute to feelings of depression. Other bad habits like smoking can also leave you feeling drained, so consider tossing the pack for good.

Eat small, nutritious meals throughout the day. Spacing out mealtimes gives your body constant fuel and keeps your metabolism humming. This can help bring you back from an energy slump. Pack your plate with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other energy-boosting foods, and avoid fatty, processed selections that can leave you feeling even more sluggish and worn out.

Listen to your body. Some days are going to be easier than others. Don’t overdo it. If you feel like you need downtime, don’t cram your day with activities. Conserve energy by completing certain tasks while sitting down. While you’re receiving treatment, focus on your health and avoid taking on any new stresses.

Remember to listen to what your body’s telling you and to prioritize rest; getting enough good-quality sleep is another key part of managing hep C.

Sources:

AA Abdo A. A. “Hepatitis C and poor quality of life: is it the virus or the patient?” Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology : Official Journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association.” July 2008. 14(3), 109–113.
Benjamin Ryan. “Fatigue: Hep C’s Partner in Crime.” Hep Magazine. September 18, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public.” July 28, 2020. Accessed April 26, 2021.
National Institutes of Health. “How many steps for better health?” June 11, 2019. Accessed September 14, 2021.

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