Reasons Not to Delay Hepatitis C Treatment
Last updated: April 2020
After being diagnosed with hepatitis C, patients may delay hepatitis C treatment for various reasons. Some of these reasons include:
- Lack of information on hepatitis C and it’s effects on the liver
- No support
- Assume if they don’t have symptoms, they don’t need treatment
- May have done older treatments with harsh side effects that were not successful. They may think all treatment is the same.
- Trouble financially and cannot meet their co-pay
- No medical insurance
- Been denied approval from an insurance company, or being told by their doctor or insurance “they don’t have significant liver damage yet to qualify for treatment”
- May not know where to get help
- Assume herbal or alternative treatment will cure hepatitis C versus medical treatment
Dangers of delaying treatment
No matter what the reason, treatment delay is dangerous. Hepatitis C is known as the “silent killer”, due to symptoms that don’t normally arise until significant liver damage is done.
The hepatitis C virus mutates and replicates in the body daily, which increases the risk of liver damage. The liver can regenerate new liver tissue to a point, but is not able to regenerate new tissue once liver damage is severely scarred (cirrhosis).
Risks of fibrosis or cirrhosis
The longer the virus works, the higher the chance liver damage is getting worse, with increased risk of impaired liver function, cancer, and liver failure. Liver damage will continue unless the hepatitis C virus is eliminated from the body with medical treatment. If the patient does treatment when there is little to mild liver damage, the patient has a higher chance of their liver regenerating new healthy liver tissue and a full recovery.
If the patient does not receive treatment until they have cirrhosis, treatment for hepatitis C only eliminates the virus from the body; It does not cure cirrhosis (permanent scarring) or the complications associated with cirrhosis. Even after being cured from hepatitis C, patients with cirrhosis will need to be closely monitored by their liver specialist (hepatologist or gastroenterologist). The patient will need regular tests, exams, and may need medication and a special diet to help reduce symptoms associated with cirrhosis.
What patients can do
Be seen by a liver specialist (hepatologist or gastroenterologist). Seek new hepatitis C treatments available for all genotypes and various liver conditions with high cure rates, shorter treatment duration, and fewer side effects.New hepatitis C treatment is now available that costs less with higher insurance approval. If you applied for one treatment and were denied by your insurance company, ask your physician if one of the other hepatitis C treatments would work for you that costs less. Re-apply with your insurance.
In the US, the FDA has approved generic hepatitis C treatments that cost considerably less, have high cure rates with fewer side effects and higher insurance approval. Patient assistance programs are available that offer help for co-pays and full treatment cost for those who need financial help.
Never give up taking care of yourself and being proactive with seeking treatment. You may try to forget about your hepatitis C, but hepatitis C doesn’t forget about you. Don’t delay. Seek treatment and get cured.