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Hepatitis C Treatment: Side Effects You Should Know About

Hepatitis C can be treated and even cured. And treatment is important -- hepatitis C, caused by a virus, can permanently damage your liver if you don't take medicine for it.

Treatment for hepatitis C keeps changing quickly. The standard treatment was typically interferon along with other drugs -- usually ribavirin and either Victrelis (boceprevir) or Incivek (telaprevir). But newer drugs Olysio (simeprevir) and Solvadi (sofosbuvir) cure more people in less time with fewer side effects. Doctors hope that in the future more people will be able to stop taking interferon. Many people have a hard time with its side effects, which include fatigue, fever, chills, and depression. However, you can work with your doctor to manage these. And the new drugs may mean that people won't have to take interferon for as long, so that may also help reduce side effects.

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What Are the Most Common Side Effects?
It depends on which drugs you take to treat hepatitis C.

Flu-like (headache, fatigue, fever, chills, muscle ache)
Arthritis-like pain in back, joints
• Gastrointestinal (nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea)
• Depression
• Low blood cell counts

• Flu-like (fatigue, fever, headache, chills, muscle ache)
• Gastrointestinal (low appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
• Low blood cell counts
• Depression
• Insomnia

• Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, chills, weakness)
• Low  blood cell counts
• Gastrointestinal (nausea, metallic taste, diarrhea, vomiting)
• Insomnia
Hair loss

• Low  blood cell counts
• Gastrointestinal (nausea, hemorrhoids diarrhea)
• Fatigue

Olysio with interferon and ribavirin
• Rash (sensitivity to sunlight)
• Itching
• Nausea
Muscle pain

Solvadi with ribavirin
• Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, headache)
• Nausea
• Insomnia
• Itching
• Low red blood cell count

Solvadi with interferon and ribavirin
• Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, headache)
• Nausea
• Insomnia
• Low red blood cell count
• Itching

How to Make Side Effects Better
There are things you can do to ease many of the side effects from hepatitis C treatment.
• If fever or aches start a few hours after your interferon shot, try getting the shot at bedtime. Take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) about 30-60 minutes before your shot. Check with your doctor about which would be best for you.
• If you start to feel depressed, talk to your doctor. He might prescribe an antidepressant. Exercise can also boost your mood. For anxiety or crankiness, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and try relaxation exercises like yoga or tai chi.
• If you have stomach problems, take your medications with food. Eat smaller, healthier meals and skip spicy, acidic foods. Ask your doctor about medications that might help with nausea or diarrhea.
• Use moisturizing soaps and lotions to help with dry skin. Don't take long, hot showers or baths.
• To prevent hair loss, use a mild shampoo and don't use harsh hair products.
• For a dry mouth or sour mouth, brush your teeth often and suck on sugar-free lemon candies. Drink lots of water. Use plastic utensils if you get a metallic taste in your mouth.

Remember that these side effects will go away once you're cured, so stick with your treatment. Work with your doctor on your treatment plan so that you can manage any problems and try to get the virus out of your body as soon as possible

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on February 20, 2014
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