Treatment for Hep C: ‘I’ve Got Time’

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Treatment for Hep C: ‘I’ve Got Time’

Debunking the most common reasons people delay treatment

People with hepatitis C put off thinking about treatment for many reasons. We explore a few of the most common ones in this article, and talk about why it’s important to handle the disease now, before there are serious consequences.

“It’s a slow-moving disease. I have time.”

Fact: Hepatitis C may progress slowly—and you may not have symptoms of the disease for decades—but it can still lead to liver damage or death. Everyone progresses at a different rate, and factors that can impact how quickly your disease progresses include age, weight, co-infection with HIV or hepatitis B, and alcohol use. It’s also important to know that for every 100 people infected with hep C, 75 to 85 will develop chronic infection and 60 to 70 will develop chronic liver disease. Experts say complications from the virus are responsible for 15,000 deaths each year in this country, and that number is growing.

“I don’t have symptoms yet, so there’s no need to worry.”

Fact: Hep C symptoms, including fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, joint pain, nausea, dark urine and jaundice, may not appear for decades. So even though you don’t feel sick, the disease could be silently causing damage to your liver. By the time symptoms appear, the damage may be advanced.

“Treatment takes a long time and the side effects are horrible.”

Fact: This was true before 2011. The treatment for hepatitis C could last as long as 24 months and the side effects often made people so uncomfortable that it prevented them from completing therapy. Even when folks completed treatment, the cure rate was sometimes only 40 percent to 50 percent. But treatment advances have come a long way. New medications—two that just received FDA approval—have a shorter course of treatment and have cure rates as high as 95 percent.

BHM Edit Staff