If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Hep C
Finding out you have hepatitis C can be difficult and emotional. After all, it’s a chronic disease that can cause serious damage to your liver. But you should know there are treatment options available—more than ever before. And scientists are constantly working on treatment advances for this condition. It’s important to know that even after treatment, follow-up care is needed, as liver damage may not be reversible.
DIAGNOSING HEP C
If you’ve been diagnosed with hep C, your doctor likely ran tests to find out more about your condition.
One of the first tests your doctor will run shows if there are hep C antibodies in your blood. This test can be done in your first office visit. If you test positive, it means that you’ve been exposed to the hep C virus. In this case, your doctor will need to run a second test. The second test will tell you if the virus is still present in your body. The 2 tests together will let your doctor know if you have hep C.
In 15% to 25% of people diagnosed with hep C, the body clears the virus. But most people with hep C don’t get rid of the virus without treatment. This is called chronic hep C.
SEEING A SPECIALIST
Certain doctors, like hepatologists, gastroenterologists, and infectious disease specialists, have special training and experience for treating patients with hep C. If you’ve been diagnosed with hep C and have not yet seen a specialist, consider meeting with one. He or she may be able to give you information on the disease and your condition that you don’t have yet. Read more about finding a doctor and get a list of questions to ask your doctor.
MONITORING HEP C
If you are one of the many people with hep C without symptoms, you may not look or feel sick. Stay in touch with your primary care doctor or specialist so he or she can keep track of your condition. Your doctor may suggest a biopsy or a scan of your liver. This can help him or her keep an eye on your liver health. It can also keep track of whether fibrosis, a complication of hep C, is developing. Fibrosis can damage your liver over time.
KNOWING YOUR HEP C GENOTYPE
There are at least 6 different genotypes of hep C. In the United States, about 74% of people with hep C have genotype 1. Your body’s response to treatment can vary depending on your genotype. The only way to be certain about your genotype is to get a specific test and discuss the results with your doctor.
Hep C is Hep C. There are no different types.
There are 6 commonly known genotypes of the virus. Your body’s response to treatment can vary based on your genotype.
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For some people who are infected with hep C, the body clears the virus on its own. But most people with hep C need treatment to help clear the virus. A primary care doctor or specialist will run tests to find out if hep C has affected your body. Medicines called antivirals may result in a sustained virologic response, also known as a “cure”. If you have been diagnosed with hep C, talk with your doctor. Together, you can decide if you should take a prescription drug combination.
You can’t be cured of Hep C.
Not only can patients be treated, they can be cured. “Cured” means that the hep C virus is below a detectable level in your blood on a test performed by your doctor months after treatment has ended. However, you still need to monitor your liver health with your doctor.
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TALKING TO YOUR DOCTOR
Before taking any medicine, herbal supplements, or vitamins, it’s important to speak with your doctor. He or she knows your medical history and can help determine how these substances might affect your liver.
Here are some helpful questions to ask your doctor.
LIVING A HEALTHY LIFE
Maintaining a balanced diet, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and exercising as prescribed by your doctor are all important for keeping your life and liver as healthy as possible. Read more about making healthy choices.
Other Health Concerns
Besides hep C, there are other factors that can affect your liver. Consider discussing the following with your doctor.
DRINKING AND DRUG USE
People with hep C should reduce or stop drinking alcohol and avoid using drugs not prescribed by a doctor. These substances can hurt your liver and make the disease progress faster. If you’re using drugs or alcohol and want help quitting, visit the Where to Get Help for Hep C section.
When someone with hep C is coinfected, it means they have been diagnosed with both the hep C virus and another virus, like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), or hepatitis A or B. Having one disease may affect the management and treatment of the other. You can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site to learn more about coinfection.
Talking to Friends and Family About Hep C
Hepatitis C can be a sensitive subject, and some people will not want to talk about it. But having the support of a friend or family member can help you cope with your condition.
There are several ways to start the conversation about hep C. Only you can decide when the time is best for you. When you’re ready, here are some suggestions on how to do it.
START WITH THE FACTS
You can begin by sharing what you know about hep C. Giving your friends and family facts about the disease can help them understand what’s true and what’s not. When friends and family understand your illness better, they'll be able to support you better. They might have questions. Be prepared to answer them.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO LEARN MORE
It might be helpful to have some information to give them or to point them online to this Web site. Sometimes it’s easier for people to find out more in their own time.
SHARE HOW YOU’RE FEELING
Ask for what you need. Talk about how you’re feeling—especially any symptoms you may have and how they affect your mood. In addition to speaking with your doctor, tell your friends and family if the disease makes you tired or depressed. Speaking honestly can help them understand what’s going on and why.