From the Community: Advice for People Who Were Just Diagnosed with Hepatitis C
Being newly diagnosed with hepatitis C (hep C) can feel scary and overwhelming. You might be asking yourself, “What do I do now? How will this impact my life? What does it all mean?”
Take a deep breath. There is a lot of information to sort through. To help set your mind at ease, here are some important points to know about Hep C.
Hep C is curable
With the arrival of direct-acting antivirals (DAA) medications in the last 10 years, hep C has become curable. These drugs keep the chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) from growing. Some people reach undetectable levels of HCV in as few as 12 weeks of treatment.1
However, DAAs can be expensive. Talk with your doctor about options and filing an appeal if your insurance does not cover them. There are also financial assistance programs for help affording Hep C treatment.
Talk with your doctor
Your doctor is one of your best sources of information. A doctor can help explain your treatment options. They will help you understand what you need to do to cure your hep C. Doctors can also help prepare you for using hep C drugs and their possible side-effects. Communicate any and all symptoms and side effects with your doctor so they stay informed.
Doctors that treat hep C
You might also be asking yourself, “Do I need a new doctor?” The answer is personal to you, but you do not necessarily need to find a new doctor following your diagnosis. Primary care doctors can treat hep C. Many in the community choose to have their primary care doctor be responsible for their hep C treatment. Other specialists who treat hep C include:2
- Gastroenterologists, which are doctors who specialize in the digestive system and the liver
- Hepatologists, which are doctors who specialize in liver diseases
- Infectious disease doctors or immunologists, which are doctors who specialize in infections and issues with the immune system
Treatment is important
While hep C is curable, treatment should not wait. Other health complications can occur if hep C is left untreated. Hep C can cause damage to the liver, chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. The sooner you get started with treatment, the sooner you can get on with living life post-hep C.
Do not panic, get educated
One of the most important things you can do when newly diagnosed is to not panic. The more you know, the less frightening a hep C diagnosis will feel. Learn all you can about hep C. Read articles devoted to medical information, experiences, and life after cure.
Connect with others
Knowing you are not alone can make a big difference. Forums, social media groups, and support groups are ways to connect with others. Hearing from others about their journey with hep C can provide reassurance. You, too, will get through it.
Talk to your family
Loved ones will be important as you go through treatment. Spend time talking about how you each feel. Learn about hep C together! It is less scary for everyone when you understand more about the disease and how it will affect you individually and as a family.
It can be an opportunity
Many choose to take time after a hep C diagnosis to evaluate their life choices. Hep C can be a catalyst for changing habits and improving overall health. Ask yourself, “What do you want out of life?” This is a time to focus on yourself. Prioritize yourself and your well-being, both for now and going forward into the future.