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The Most Common Symptom of Hepatitis C: Fatigue

The most common symptom throughout hepatitis C is fatigue. It is the first symptom to show up and the last to leave.

For many, hep C symptoms may not manifest for years after contracting hepatitis C. For those who experience symptoms, they may not relate fatigue to hepatitis C due to the various reasons a person can feel overly tired, weak, or run down. An estimated 50% to 70% of hepatitis C patients experience fatigue. Symptoms of hepatitis C, along with fatigue, can appear as early as several months after contracting the hepatitis C virus and last throughout treatment and the recovery period.

Fatigue’s cause with hepatitis C can be hard to pinpoint, since many factors can be involved such as fighting infection, level of liver damage, associated medical conditions, medication side effects, depression, etc.

Associated medical conditions

Associated medical conditions can be common with hepatitis C and can contribute to fatigue.

Talk to your doctor about testing for associated conditions. Alcohol and drugs use/abuse can also contribute to fatigue.

What you can do to help fatigue

Some ways to help manage fatigue may include:

  • Drink at least 64oz of pure water daily or water infused with citrus
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Eating small meals and healthy snacks can help keep your blood sugar balanced.
  • Avoid processed foods, and high carbs as much as possible
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Mild exercise like walking, riding a bike, or yoga can help fatigue if done on a consistent basis
  • Take B-12 tablet daily, or weekly B-12 shots, and other vitamins - if recommended by your doctor
  • Take rest breaks when you need to throughout the day
  • Reduce stress as much as possible
  • Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol accelerates liver damage and adds to fatigue.
  • Participate in something you enjoy throughout the week. Keep your mind active and positive.
  • Talk to your doctor if you continue to have unresolved fatigue.

Treatment

There are a variety of treatments for hepatitis C for all genotypes (virus strain), and liver conditions. To know which treatment is best suited for your condition will depend on your genotype, viral load, degree of liver damage, and other medical conditions.

Fatigue caused by treatment for hepatitis C is possible, but not as common with today's direct-acting antiviral treatment. If you experience fatigue or other side effects while doing treatment for hepatitis C, talk to your doctor.

Resolving fatigue

If the hepatitis C virus is eliminated in treatment, depending on the level of liver damage and if other associated medical conditions are present, symptoms, especially fatigue, may continue for a while in post-treatment recovery.

Every patient’s treatment and liver condition are unique. There is not a one size fits all answer as to when symptoms resolve. For most patients, without severe scarring, all symptoms resolve within months after treatment and energy returns. Testing and early treatment are highly recommended to eliminate hepatitis C before more liver damage is present.1-3

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