Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver, causing it to become inflamed. In many cases, hepatitis C can also cause liver damage and harm other organs in the body as well. Out of all the hepatitis viruses, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of the most serious viruses. Hepatitis C can also lead to complications that may need liver transplant, and even death if left untreated. There is a cure for hepatitis C and over the last couple of years, many new treatment options have become available for curing HCV. However, what is important is that you seek treatment at the earliest. Many times, due to the fact that hepatitis C may not present any symptoms in the early stages, it often goes unnoticed and is left untreated. Once the disease reaches its chronic stage, then the symptoms become more apparent, causing the individual to seek treatment. The earlier hepatitis C is diagnosed and caught, the better are the chances of full recovery with no complications.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects your liver. The virus, known simply as the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), is only one of the many different types of hepatitis viruses that can be found. Hepatitis C causes the liver to become inflamed and if left untreated, HCV can eventually cause liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer and even death in some cases. In the initial stages, a Hepatitis C infection does not typically produce any symptoms. Some people may experience some mild symptoms, but they generally tend not to associate these with HCV. In fact, most people don’t even know they have liver damage till it shows up during a routine medical test. Many people with hepatitis C have it for a short period of time and then it can get resolved on its own. This form of the disease is known as acute hepatitis C. However, most people, though, go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, which requires a course of treatment.
Is It Possible to Cure Hepatitis C?
There is definitely a cure for hepatitis C and yes it is possible to cure Hepatitis C. In recent years, the treatment options for hepatitis C has seen rapid evolution, improving steadily and allowing more and more patients to be cured. The new treatments are now capable of treating more genotypes of the Hep C virus. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 4 patients with hepatitis C gets cured without any treatment.
The hepatitis virus does not produce symptoms till it already causes liver damage. Therefore, if you feel that there is a chance you might have been exposed to the virus, it is important that you get tested.
What Medications Are There To Cure Hepatitis C?
Before the development of newer and more innovative medications, hepatitis C was being treated with a combination of interferon and ribavirin. These medications did not directly attack the hepatitis virus; instead, they boosted your own immune system, allowing it to kill the hep virus. This treatment, while effective at killing the virus, had significant and severe side effects. The cure rate was also variable, as this hepatitis C treatment did not work on all the genotypes of the virus.
In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved several antiviral drugs that worked by attacking the hepatitis C virus more directly, instead of working on your immune system. These antiviral drugs have shown to have a much better success rate than the previous treatments and were also effective on different genotypes of the disease. Some of the most commonly recommended treatments for curing hepatitis C today include:
- Brand name: Darvoni or Sovodak (daclatasvir-sofosbuvir).
- Brand name: Zepatier (elbasvir-grazoprevir).
- Brand name: Mavyret (glecaprevir-pibrentasvir).
- Brand name: Harvoni (ledipasvir-sofosbuvir).
- Brand name: Technivie (ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir).
- Brand name: Viekira Pak (ombitasvir-paritaprevir-ritonavir and dasabuvir).
All of the above-mentioned drugs are a class of drugs known as protease inhibitors. This class of medications inhibits the hepatitis virus from gaining access to proteins that it requires to reproduce. Within 10 to 24 weeks, these drugs cause the hepatitis C virus to eventually die out and flush out from the system and hence cure hepatitis C.
A Sustained Virologic Response, or SVR, is the ultimate goal of any hepatitis C treatment and that is what these protease inhibitor drugs aim to achieve. What SVR means is that 12 weeks after the end of your treatment, the amount of HCV in your system reaches such a low level that it cannot be detected.
Is a Liver Transplant a Definite Cure for Hepatitis C?
Chronic hepatitis C can cause liver failure or liver cancer. Once this stage is reached, you may require a liver transplant. In fact, one of the most common reasons for needing a liver transplant is hepatitis C.
So what happens during a liver transplant? and can it be a possible cure for hepatitis C? A liver transplant removes the damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. However, there is no guarantee that a liver transplant will get rid of the virus. This is because HCV lives in the bloodstream and not in the liver and only affects the liver.
Therefore, removing the liver does not guarantee that the Hepatitis C infection will get cured as well.
Furthermore, if you are suffering from active hepatitis C, the virus will continue to damage your new and healthy liver, as the disease itself remains untreated. However, if your hepatitis C treatment has already achieved the goal of sustained virologic response (SVR), then it is highly unlikely that you will end up having hepatitis C again.
Is there any Alternate Cure for Hepatitis C?
Many people firmly believe in the effectiveness of alternative medications for helping cure hepatitis C. However, no research study has yet proven that any type of alternative treatment can actually cure hepatitis C. While many websites claim that milk thistle helps cure liver diseases, studies have shown that there is no difference between the effectiveness of milk thistle and a placebo in treating individuals suffering from hepatitis C.
Can Hepatitis C be Prevented?
As of now, there is no vaccine available to prevent contracting hepatitis C. Research is ongoing about developing a vaccine for hepatitis C. However, there are vaccines available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and if you get diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor will recommend that you get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, as even these viruses can cause liver damage and other complications while the treatment for hepatitis C is ongoing.
The only way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid exposure to the virus. The HCV is blood borne and you contract the disease through bodily fluids only. Therefore, by following healthy lifestyle practices, you can easily limit your chances of getting exposed to the hepatitis C virus and thus prevent getting Hepatitis C.
Yes, there is a cure for hepatitis C, but for the cure to work, you should be aware that an early diagnosis for Hepatitis C will boost your chances of treatment. There are many factors that contribute to a positive response to your Hepatitis C treatment regime. A majority of patients who get treated with protease inhibitors fulfill the goal of the treatment and successfully achieve SVR and end up being cured from Hepatitis C infection. In people who have achieved SVR, there is only a 1 or 2% chance of having a relapse of hepatitis C or for that matter, any other liver-related diseases or death. It is necessary that you follow the Hepatitis C treatment regime set by your doctor diligently and follow all the do’s and don’ts that are recommended along with the treatment to ensure that you get cured of hepatitis C.
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