Hepatitis C is treated using two medications that help your body fight the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Treatment takes time and commitment. In some people, treatment completely rids the body of HCV.
- Interferon is a protein that helps your immune system target HCV. It's injected one or more times a week for up to 12 months. Most people are taught how to do these shots at home.
- Ribavirin makes it harder for HCV to reproduce inside the body. These pills are often taken along with interferon to make treatment more effective. The pills are taken twice a day for up to 12 months.
Hepatitis C treatment can cause side effects. They may include:
- Feeling like you have the flu. Symptoms include fever, upset stomach, headache, feeling tired, and not being hungry.
- Depression. This is more likely if you have a history of mental illness or depression.
- Anemia (having fewer red blood cells than normal). You may feel weak and get bruises more often. Anemia can be life-threatening for patients with heart or blood vessel disease.
- Birth defects. Hepatitis C treatment should not be done during or right before pregnancy.
- Other side effects. These include mood swings, rash, thyroid problems, coughing, and shortness of breath.
For best results, follow up with your doctor during and after treatment. This may include:
- Having blood tests during treatment to see how your body is responding.
- Following your doctor's instructions. This may mean changing your dosage based on how well treatment is working.
- Having a blood test about 6 months after treatment ends. This checks for HCV in your body. If HCV is found, try not to be discouraged. Treatment may have slowed the progress of liver damage.