If you have chronic hepatitis C and don't get it treated, it can lead to serious conditions like scarring of your liver (known as cirrhosis) or, in rare cases, liver cancer.
A team of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals can give you treatment and care to help keep that from happening.
Primary Care Doctor
This doctor is the one you see for physical exams and any kind of health concern you have. They probably did the first blood tests that showed you might have hepatitis C. Then, they referred you to a specialist for more tests and treatment recommendations.
If specialists are handling your treatment, they’ll tell your primary care doctor about how it’s going and how you’re doing. This is so your doctor can keep an eye on how the condition -- or the medicine you take for it -- affects the rest of your body.
They also may recommend other health professionals to help with your care, like a dietitian or a therapist.
Gastroenterologist, Hepatologist, and Infectious Disease Specialist
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who has specific training in disorders that affect the organs in your digestive system, including your liver. A hepatologist is a kind of gastroenterologist who focuses on problems with your liver.
An infectious disease specialist is a doctor who has special training in infections, using antibiotics to treat infections, and the effects antibiotics can cause.
One of these specialists -- or a team of them -- will:
- Recommend tests to make sure you have hepatitis C
- Find out how well your liver is working
- Work with you to create a treatment plan
- Prescribe medication and explain how to take it
- See if the treatment works for you and change it if necessary
- Help you manage any side effects or other issues related to your treatment or condition
Physician Assistants/Nurse Practitioners
These members of your care team can help you understand your treatment plan. They can also explain how it works. They also might coordinate your care, make sure you have the support you need, and help your specialists with other things related to your treatment, including:
- Ordering tests
- Reading test results
- Prescribing medicine
Along with your doctor, your pharmacist also can explain how and when to take your medicine and answer questions about side effects. They also can help make sure your treatment plan won’t interfere with other medications you take. They'll also make sure you’re not taking anything that could harm your liver.
There’s no special diet for hepatitis C, but what you eat does affect your liver. For example, being overweight can make you more likely to have fat deposits, or “fatty liver.” That can keep your treatment from working well. So it’s best to stay away from:
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Food with lots of sugar, like soda or pastries
On the other hand, some foods are good for your liver, like:
- Whole grains
- Lean protein
Your doctor may recommend that you work with a dietitian to set goals and come up with a personalized plan. If you’re overweight, shedding even a few pounds can make a difference.
A serious illness like hepatitis C can take an emotional toll on you along with the physical one. The stress and anxiety you may feel can make your condition worse. It’s not unusual to feel sad or scared sometimes, but if you need help managing your feelings, you might ask your doctor about working with a counselor.
Talk therapy or group therapy (with others going through the same things you are) may help you understand your emotions and give you ways to deal with them.
You have a part to play in your treatment plan, too. Here are a few things you can do to make it work as well as possible:
- Take careful notes during your appointments and keep them with your test results and other medical information.
- Ask your doctors, nurses, and pharmacist about anything you don’t understand.
- Show up for all your appointments.
- Stick to your treatment plan.
- Tell your doctor about any side effects or other issues you have.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, and don’t drink alcohol.
Mayo Clinic: “Hepatitis C.”
The Hepatitis C Trust: “Dealing With Doctors.”
The Liver Foundation: “Glossary of Terms.”
Infectious Disease Specialists: “What Is An Infectious Disease Specialist?”
Cleveland Clinic: “The Team Approach to Hepatitis C Management.”
American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy: “Genotype 1 Hepatitis C Virus and The Pharmacist’s Role in Treatment.”
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Viral Hepatitis.”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What an RDN Can Do for You.”
Vestibular Disorders Association: “Counseling for Chronic Illness.”
FamilyDoctor.org: “Hepatitis C.”