Hepatitis C Treatment

QUESTION: What are the options for Hepatitis C treatment?

ANSWER:

Patients who suffer with Hepatitis C will have to make a decision whether or not to embark on a course of Hepatitis C treatment. This decision, for or against, is potentially a life-altering decision and should be carefully thought out. Currently, many strides have been made in the area of Hepatitis C medicine so that patients who suffer with HCV have viable options for treatment. Before deciding for or against treatment, patients should consider the risks of not receiving treatment. Inasmuch as liver diseases are the single most common complications of HCV infection, patients who choose not to receive treatment risk the following medical situations: the need for liver transplant; cirrhosis of the liver; liver cancer; scarring of the liver.

The course for Hepatitis C treatment is indeed a difficult journey; many patients look away from it hoping for a better time in their lives. This decision should be made prayerfully with loved-ones and alongside informed medical advice.

The goal for Hepatitis C treatment is to prevent complications of the infection. Prevention of complications is achieved by the eradication of the infection. Doctors can measure the response the treatments through monitoring the patientís blood. Eradication of the infection is said to be achieved when there is sustained virologic response (SVR). If a patientís blood tests healthy once, and then again after 6 months, that patient is said to have reached SVR. Patients most often achieve SVR who have an initial dramatic response within 12 weeks of the onset of treatment.

The current treatment of choice is pegylated interferon plus ribavirin. It is the most successful, effective course of treatment offered by medical science and in many patients, it produces the desired response in the blood. Interferon is a protein resident in the human body. The body produces more when it is attempting to fight off an intruder such as a flu virus. The interferon that an HCV patient receives works similarly to that which is resident in the human body in the following ways: it attaches to the healthy cells, aiding them to defend themselves against the virus; the interferon assists the immune system in blocking the HCV from multiplying; it prevents healthy cells from being infected while ridding the body of infected cells. Pegylation provides a barrier for the interferon protein cell which helps it to survive in the body longer.

One of the considerations for embarking on a course of treatment is the possible side effects sustained during the weekly intake of pegylated interferon. The treatment usually lasts from 24 to 48 weeks and may be accompanied by the following symptoms: difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels leading to diabetes; thinning of hair; insomnia; flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever and body aches; nausea and vomiting; fatigue and skin reactions such as rash and/or itching and soreness at injection site. These effects must be weighed carefully against opting out of treatment; each patient must consider the long-term goals of his or her treatment.

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