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Hepatitis Health Center

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Understanding Hepatitis C -- Diagnosis and Treatment

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Because hepatitis C doesn't always cause symptoms, you may not know you have the virus. Your doctor won't likely check for hepatitis C unless you have abnormal liver tests, think you've had contact with a person who is infected, or if you were born between 1945 and 1965. If you think you may have the disease, you can get a blood test.

Who Should Get Tested?

The CDC recommends that you have a bloodtest for hepatitis C if you:

  • Received blood from a donor who later was found to have the disease.
  • Ever injected drugs.
  • Got a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992.
  • Received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987.
  • Were born between 1945 and 1965.
  • Ever had long-term kidney dialysis.
  • Have HIV.
  • Were born to a mother with hepatitis C.
  • Work in a health care environment where needle sticks are possible.
  • Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.

If you have hepatitis C, your doctor may also do a liver biopsy. He’ll insert a needle into the organ and remove a piece of tissue. It will go to a lab for tests.

What Are the Treatments?

Your treatment will depend on many things including what type of hepatitis C virus you have. In the U.S. the most common type is genotype 1.  Less common are genotypes 2 and 3.  Genotypes 4, 5, and 6 are rare in the U.S.  Also, your doctor’s choice of treatment will be influenced by past treatments and whether you have cirrhosis, kidney disease, or HIV. 

Treatment options include:

  • Daclatasvir (Daklinza)
  • Ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni)
  • Ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir (Technivie)
  • Ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir plus dasabuvir (Viekira Pak)
  • Simeprevir (Olysio)
  • Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)

These medications are, in general, well tolerated. The FDA has issued a warning that Technivie and Viekira Pak can cause severe liver injury especially if you already have severe liver disease.  

Interferon and ribavirin used to be the main treatments for hepatitis C and are now used less frequently. They can have severe side effects including fatigue, flu-like symptoms, anemia, skin rash, mild anxiety, depression, nausea, and diarrhea.

Talk with your doctor about what's right for you based on your medical needs and insurance coverage, since some of the hepatitis C drugs are very expensive.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 20, 2015
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