It's important for people with hepatitis C to take control of their health. There's a lot you can do on a day-to-day basis to protect your liver from damage and keep you feeling good.
In addition to exercising, eating right and getting medical and emotional support, here are some things to keep in mind.
Other viruses that damage your liver, like hepatitis A or B, are especially dangerous to people with hepatitis C. Your doctor may tell you to get vaccinated against them.
HIV weakens your immune system. That could allow hepatitis C to progress more quickly. If you have more than one sexual partner, you need to use condoms. Not only do they prevent you from spreading what you have, they also protect you from other STDs.
Get Enough Sleep
People with hepatitis C often have a hard time sleeping, especially during treatment.
You may not think it's a big deal, but getting enough sleep matters. Hepatitis C symptoms like fatigue can be worse when you don't.
There's no special cure for insomnia caused by hepatitis C or its treatment. But there are steps you can take to get a good night's rest.
- Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time.
- Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex only - no pets, TVs, work, or gadgets.
- Keep the room cool.
- Use soft fabrics for PJs, sheets and blankets.
- Skip naps.
- Avoid exercise, large meals or alcohol within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
Sleep medication can help, too. Some doctors recommend drugs like zolpidem (Ambien).
Look Out for Your Liver
Hepatitis C can make it harder for your liver to do its main job: break down and filter out substances from your bloodstream. As a result, medications, herbs, drugs, and alcohol may stay in your system longer, and have a more powerful effect. Some substances pose the risk of serious liver damage.
Common painkillers and cold remedies with and acetaminophen can be toxic to people with damaged livers, especially if you take them with alcohol or in greater than recommended doses. Be careful with herbal remedies, too. They can be powerful medicine, and some of them can do real harm.
Don't assume that over-the-counter medications are safe, either. Never take any drugs, supplements or alternative medicines before talking to your doctor.
If you're a smoker, try to quit. If you’re using illegal drugs, get into a treatment program. Ask your doctor whether you should cut out alcohol completely, or limit drinks to special occasions.
Learn to Relax
Living with a chronic illness can be tough, and so can the treatment for hepatitis C. It's easy to let your anxieties get to you. For people undergoing treatment, depression is always a risk.
To combat anxiety and depression, exercise regularly. It helps your state of mind as much as your body. Try out some relaxation and massage techniques. There isn't any scientific evidence that these approaches will help, but many people have benefited from them.
Most of all, keep living your life. Don't isolate yourself. Go out with friends. Do things you enjoy. Don't let your worries about hepatitis C keep you from doing the things you've always done.
The Big Picture
Most people with hepatitis C live long lives. Many don't have symptoms for decades, if ever. It's important to remember this. Finding out you have it may even have a positive effect on your life.
"Getting diagnosed is a life-altering event for most people," says Alan Franciscus, executive director, Hepatitis C Support Project and editor-in-chief of HCV Advocate, San Francisco. "It helps people look at their lives and their health and figure out what's really important."
Being diagnosed with hepatitis C can inspire you to live a healthier and more fulfilling life, both physically and emotionally.