Hepatitis C is an infectious liver condition that can cause severe liver damage if not managed appropriately. Fortunately, newer medications for Hepatitis C have made it possible to manage this condition effectively.
Hepatitis C is entirely treatable using newer Direct-Acting Antiviral drugs, or DAA for short. The DAA regime acts directly against the virus and eliminates it from the bloodstream. Once the viral load is sized down to undetectable levels for at least 12 weeks after stopping treatment, Hepatitis C is said to be cured.
The use of these newer drugs has made it possible to increase the treatment efficacy significantly. The cure rate for Hepatitis C has gone up to more than 90% with DAAs compared to less than 50% with the older generation of drugs for Hepatitis C.
HOW IS HEPATITIS C TREATED – AND CURED?
Hepatitis C is one of the most notorious viruses that causes liver inflammation. There is no vaccine for this virus, and it is also fairly common around the world. Knowing the stubborn nature of the virus and its prevalence worldwide, it is promising that treatment could effectively cure people of the disease. Fortunately, that is exactly what DAAs are supposed to do.
Previously, treating Hepatitis C used to be extremely difficult. The cure rate was less than 50% with interferons and ribavirin. Additionally, these drugs were administered in injection form and had terrible side effects for the patient. However, the newer generation of antiviral drugs has changed the course of Hepatitis C treatment.
Direct Acting Antiviral drugs have the benefit of having a more accessible mode of administration. Unlike interferons and ribavirin, DAAs like sofosbuvir can be taken orally. An easier mode of administration proves helpful in increasing the patient's drug adherence as well.
Unlike interferons and ribavirin, DAAs attack the virus directly to decrease the virus particles in your bloodstream. Decreasing the number of virus particles in your blood, or the "viral load," is the key to Hepatitis C treatment. Treatment with DAAs continues for at least eight weeks and may extend up to 24 weeks, depending on your current health status. Undetectable viral load lasting at least 12 weeks after the treatment has stopped - also known as a sustained virologic response - indicates that the disease has been cured. The duration of your Hepatitis C treatment depends on the genotype of the virus, the condition of your liver, and any comorbid conditions that you may have. Your doctor may carry out several blood tests to confirm your viral load status. A liver biopsy may also be necessary to ascertain the extent of liver damage before starting treatment in certain conditions.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS THE TREATMENT WITH DIRECT-ACTING ANTIVIRAL DRUGS?
It is estimated that Direct-Acting Antiviral drugs have a 95% cure rate. This is a huge jump compared to the 50% cure rate of the previous generation of medicines. Moreover, DAAs also have a significantly less harmful side effect profile.
However, it is essential to note that successful treatment does not give you immunity against all genotypes of Hepatitis C. Someone with a successful treatment history for Hepatitis C can still catch it again. A lack of vaccines can also complicate things further.
For maximum protection against Hepatitis C, it is best to limit your exposure to the virus as much as possible. Here are some prevention methods that you can take to protect yourself from Hepatitis C:
- Implement safe sex practices
- Avoid using needles for drug use
- Avoid sharing needles with other people
- Avoid getting tattoos and piercings from places without an official health safety rating
While the treatment with DAAs itself is effective, you can take some steps to improve your health further. These include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Consuming a healthy and balanced diet
- Ceasing smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NEW MEDICATIONS IN THE DAA REGIME?
There are multiple drug combinations available in the DAA regime. All these drug combinations are effective against different genotypes of the disease-causing virus. Your doctor may employ any one of the following combinations based on the genotype of the virus and the state of your liver:
WILL THIS TREATMENT WORK FOR ME IF I HAVE ADVANCED LIVER DISEASE?
Advanced liver disease means that the virus may have damaged your liver beyond repair. Liver cirrhosis, which is the fibrosis of the liver, is a result of advanced liver disease. While direct-acting antiviral medication may help remove the cause of liver inflammation, it cannot reverse the fibrosis of your liver.
A liver transplant and a DAA regime may become essential in cases of advanced liver disease to manage the condition effectively.
SIDE EFFECTS OF THE DAA REGIME
Side effects of the DAA regime are mild. Most people tolerate this drug regime rather well. A more accessible mode of administration also makes it an easy choice for patients with Hepatitis C.
At the onset of treatment, mild malaise, fever, and trouble sleeping may arise. These are side effects of the medication and settle down on their own without any intervention. If the side effects continue, your doctor may be able to help you manage them much more effectively.
However, other people might experience more than just insomnia and fever. Other common side effects of the DAA regime include:
- Depressive disorder
- Skin problems
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Behavioral changes
Although concerning, these side effects are infrequent with DAAs and can be managed easily with the help of your healthcare provider. Discontinuing drugs at the onset of side effects is not recommended. Completion of the entire course of drugs is essential for eliminating the Hepatitis virus from your body.
However, if your side effects increase in both frequency and intensity, contact your healthcare provider. Your doctor may be able to guide you better on how to deal with your side effects more effectively. They may also change your drug regime to better suit your needs and your daily routine.
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