Beginning Steps after Being Diagnosed with Hepatitis C
You may find yourself with many emotions after being diagnosed with hepatitis C. As with any diagnosis, there are many questions you begin asking yourself after you are diagnosed and unsure where to find those answers.
So, what is first?
You may want to start by setting an appointment with your primary care provider, also known as your family physician’s office. If you do not have one, this is now an important step to take. If you are unsure of a provider in your area, ask friends and family if they'd recommend someone to take care of their health needs.
What can I do in between?
As you wait for your appointment day, make sure to write down any questions you have for the provider, as many times we forget what we wanted to ask when we get there. If possible, bring your labs with you, or ask to sign a release for the labs to be sent over to the provider for your appointment. Your primary care provider may then send a referral over for you to a gastroenterologists, infectious disease, or hepatologist. These types of providers specialize in care of the liver.
This specialist appointment may take you several weeks or even a couple months to get into. Make sure that you attend this appointment and if you are unable to, reach out as quickly as possible to reschedule the appointment. In the meantime, you can reach out to others through support websites such as Hepatitis.net and find support and articles to help.
What can I expect at my first specialist appointment?
When the day has arrived to go to your appointment, you can expect to be asked many questions, and while some may make you feel uncomfortable, be honest with your specialist. Your specialist will go over things to be aware of, such as, not using the same toothbrush as someone else (and other ways hep C can be transmitted), what to do if you are bleeding, and more. Your specialist will order a lot of blood work; With hepatitis C, the provider needs to know your genotype and viral load, and also test for hepatitis A and B.
How long will it take to begin treatment?
This is not a straight answer question. For example, you may return in four weeks and things are ready to start treatment. It can also be longer, due to medication being approved through insurance, medication being paid for through a grant, or other factors. It's a good idea to keep your appointments and keep track of your symptoms, concerns, and questions.
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