Aftercare - What Happens After Treatment Ends
Throughout the hepatitis C treatment process, everyone looks forward to the same thing: the end of the need for treatment. But, after all of this, some are left wondering, “Now what?”
Immediately after treatment
Some think that their last treatment means they are done dealing with hepatitis C. This is not so. Even after the doctor has run all of the tests to indicate no further viral load, the body will still need time to heal.
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For some, this healing process is based solely on the effects of the medication(s). This may simply mean continuing to nourish the body with healthy food and strength-building exercise. Many say that they begin to feel markedly better approximately two weeks after they stop taking the medication(s). Some even feel well enough to no longer require anti-depression medication. If you are taking anti-depressants, always discuss your feelings with your doctor before changing or stopping your dosage.
For other people, ending the active stages of hepatitis C treatment may mean additional treatment plans to heal a damaged liver - which may take a longer period of time than the anti-viral drugs required.
Considerations for women
For women of child-bearing years, this means using two forms of birth control for six full months after treatment if/when she has used ribavirin or some other hepatitis C medications. It may even mean using non-hormonal contraceptives if she used a protease inhibitor, as these may interfere with hormonal birth control. Before returning to typical birth control methods or attempting to become pregnant, the doctor may even request that extra pregnancy prevention methods be used until certain tests can verify that all of the anti-viral medication and all medication to combat the side effects have completely cleared the body.
Recovery from hep C treatment
Some people find that they struggle unexpectedly after hepatitis C treatment ends. This may be because they expected to feel instantly better, whereas some drugs take days or weeks to leave the body and may still cause some side effects. Others expected to resume life as it was before they were ever exposed to the virus, without expecting to need more time to heal and regain strength and energy.
There are even some who expect to return to work the day after their last treatment and find themselves shocked that they may need more time away to recover. It is important for you to consider these possibilities for your own recovery process. You may want to plan for additional time away from work, for additional childcare or pet care assistance, or to simply not commit yourself to active experiences for a period of time after your treatment will end. This will allow you to focus on what your body needs rather than to try to push it too hard too quickly and end up exhausted and/or frustrated.
Long-term treatment effects
The first thing that some want to do is to toast the end of their battle with the hepatitis C virus. Doctors recommend not drinking any alcohol while the virus is present, both because it can cause the virus to replicate much more quickly and because alcohol can lower the efficacy of the medication. However, even after the virus is gone, doctors do not recommend consuming any alcohol. This is largely related to the healing process of the liver.
The damage to the liver due to hepatitis C may or may not be reversible. The damage is graded by doctors, which then allows them to help you to understand what, if anything, can be done to reverse as much of the damage as possible. During this time, alcohol consumption can interfere with the goal of making the liver healthy again or, and for those with irreversible damage, it can further damage an already over-taxed liver.
In addition, your doctor may recommend some changes to your diet or exercise routine based on what your liver needs in order to function at peak performance. Each person’s aftercare experience is different, based on their strain of hepatitis C, their treatment plan, their body, and their lifestyle. Speak with your doctor to address any questions or concerns you may have about your short-term or long-term post-treatment process.1-4
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