Can you cure hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause inflammation of the liver.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes it. You can get exposed to HCV through the blood of people who carry the virus, for example, through sharing a needle or razor.
The good news is that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis C is curable in about 95% of people with the right treatment.
This article discusses how to cure hepatitis C, the treatment timeline, and the outlook for people with this condition.
Hepatitis C treatment and cure
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that some people with hepatitis C don’t experience any symptoms and that some may not even need treatment because their immune system can clear the condition on its own.
In other cases, the viral infection can become chronic, and people need treatment to avoid serious and long-term complications like liver cirrhosis or cancer. That’s why it’s important to seek medical advice if you think you have had exposure to HCV or if you experience any symptoms of hepatitis C.
Although treatment depends on the genotype of the virus, the person’s health, and more, the most common treatment for hepatitis C is antiviral medication.
There are several types of antiviral medications available. The preferred options include:
- Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs): These are newer and highly effective medications that work directly against the hepatitis C virus, stopping it from multiplying. You can take DAAs orally, sometimes alongside other antiviral drugs. Common DAAs include sofosbuvir, ledipasvir, and daclatasvir.
- Interferon-based therapies: These are medications that stimulate the immune system to fight the virus. But they are not as effective as DAAs and often come with more side effects. The side effects may also be more serious.
- Ribavirin drugs: These are another type of antiviral medication that doctors prescribe in combination with other drugs to treat hepatitis C, particularly in cases where the virus has not responded to other treatments. A common drug name is Rebetol.
Generally, DAAs are the first-line treatment. This is because they work on many genotypes of the virus, you can take them orally, have fewer side effects, and are more effective.
In fact, DAAs are so effective that it has led to the discontinuation of many older medication options.
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How long does it take to cure hepatitis C?
The timeline for curing hepatitis C depends on several factors, including the type of medication used, the genotype of the virus, and the person’s overall health.
In most cases, hepatitis C can be cured within 8–12 weeks of starting treatment, especially if the treatment includes DAAs.
That said, people who have had hepatitis C for a long time or who have developed more advanced liver damage may take longer to respond to treatment. Sometimes, they may need to take medication for up to 24 weeks.
Outlook for hepatitis C
The outlook for people with hepatitis C has improved significantly in recent years.
With the availability of highly effective antiviral medications, particularly DAAs, hepatitis C can be cured in the majority of people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antiviral medication can cure around 95% of people with the condition.
With such effective treatment options available, it’s possible to limit or even eradicate this disease worldwide. The United Nations has set a goal of eliminating certain communicable diseases, including hepatitis C, by 2030.
It’s important to note that even after being cured of hepatitis C, some people may still have liver damage. Sometimes, this damage can improve with time. Plus, treatment greatly reduces the risk of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis.
All this being said, keep in mind that even after being cured of hepatitis C, you should continue to take steps to protect your liver. If you’re drinking, limit or avoid alcohol and drugs that can damage the liver. It’s also important to maintain a nutritious diet and get regular check-ups to monitor liver function.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause serious liver damage if left untreated. But thanks to highly effective antiviral medications, hepatitis C is curable.
The duration of treatment varies depending on the type of medication used and the severity of the infection.
People who no longer have hepatitis C should continue to take steps to protect their liver and receive regular check-ups to monitor their liver function.
If you think you may have had exposure to hepatitis C, it’s important to get tested and seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid potential long-term complications.
Need help covering the cost of hepatitis C medication? Optum Perks’ free Discount Card may help you get up to 80% off your usual prescription cost.
- Feld JJ, et al. (2016). Ribavirin revisited in the era of direct-acting antiviral therapy for hepatitis C virus infection. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/liv.13212
- Hepatitis C. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm
- Hepatitis C. (2022). https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c
- Mayberry J, et al. (2019). The revolution in treatment of hepatitis C. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025712518300981
- Pol, S. (2019). The remarkable history of the hepatitis C virus. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31019253/
- Solitano V, et al. (2021). Management and treatment of hepatitis C: Are there still unsolved problems and unique populations? https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/13/6/1048
- Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. (2015). https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda