Alcohol and Hepatitis C

We’ve all heard that alcohol is rough on your liver. Though drinking can't cause the hepatitis C virus, once you have it, it’s healthier for you to avoid alcohol altogether.

Effects of Alcohol on Your Liver

Although alcohol may have been involved when you were infected with hep C, the disease didn't come from it. But drinking could allow more of the virus to stay in your body. If you stop, or at least cut back, the level of the virus may drop.

And because you're infected with hep C, your liver is already weakened. So drinking, even in small amounts, can raise your chances of serious liver disease.

Alcohol can cause inflammation and fibrosis, or scarring. As scar tissue builds up in your liver, you can get cirrhosis. When that happens, your liver can’t work right and breaks down. Alcohol also can raise your risk of getting liver cancer.

Alcohol and Treatment

Hep C drugs help you clear the virus out of your liver. But alcohol can keep them from doing that as well as they should. And drinking can make it harder for you to remember to take your meds on time.

Alcohol also can worsen side effects of interferon treatments, like depression.

If you have cirrhosis or are waiting for a liver transplant due to your hep C, you cannot drink any alcohol.

Is Drinking OK After Treatment?

If your tests 3 months after your treatments show that your liver is clear of the virus, you’re considered cured.

But that doesn’t mean you should drink, because there isn’t enough research to know if it’s OK. If you already have liver disease, you most likely shouldn’t. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.

If you do decide to drink, stick to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men. And keep in mind that beer and wine aren’t any easier on your liver than whiskey.

You shouldn’t drink if you’ve taken acetaminophen for pain or a headache. This combination can harm your liver.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 11, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Alcohol and Hepatitis C."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Viral Hepatitis."

American Liver Foundation.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Cirrhosis."

Hepatitis C Trust, UK: "Alcohol."

University Hospital Southampton: "Your Hepatitis C Treatment."

U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Appendix 9: Alcohol."

International Alliance for Responsible Drinking.

Virginia Mason Medical Center: "Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis C."

HCVAdvocate.org: "HCV Negative: A Guide to Healthy Living Without Hepatitis C."

CDC: "Hepatitis C FAQs for Health Professionals."

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