Understanding Potential Side Effects

In my work as a peer navigator I am often asked about the potential side effects of hep C treatment. Understandably people want to have some idea of what to expect, and I was no different when I was about to start treatment. There are lots of groups on Facebook as well as forums and other sites where people discuss their own experiences openly and offer up tips on how to deal with this thing or the other. This is a good thing and I engaged in the same way with people from the community. I learned a lot from asking questions or just reading other people’s questions and the answers offered.

Treatment Is Different for Everyone

One of many things I learned, more than anything else, was that although there are some common experiences there were also things that were not so often spoke of or shared. The conclusion I came to is that this was once again because we are all different. It may sound simplistic but it explains a lot to me. There can be no cookie-cutter approach to hep C or the treatment to eradicate it. I wish it was as easy to define and capture in just a few sentences but it just isn’t. We all have the same basic physiology and many of our characteristics are very similar but we are all unique. This is why DNA is so effective at determining our differences. There are other ways that our medical professionals assess us, like our ALT, AST, HGB and Fibrosis stage, and these things certainly help to paint a picture of how much effect the virus (hep C) has had over time and is having on us currently.

Again, we are all at different places in life. Age and other factors affect our health, aside from hep C. Some example include having diabetes, being co-infected with HIV, heart disease, or high blood pressure. These conditions will affect our overall health and just how well we manage during treatment of any kind. The importance of drug interaction and how other medications affects a condition we may have is something that needs to be reviewed as part of a comprehensive approach.

Common and Not-So-Common Experiences

Please read the drug monographs (also known as package inserts or prescribing information). It is useful. As I mentioned, we are all unique, but monographs list the most common side effects down to the least experienced ones. These monographs are based on reported adverse reactions and that is real-life experiences of people like you and I. Please report any side effects to your treating physician or nurse.

My response to people asking me about current hep C treatments goes like this: Some people say they feel better than they have in years, while others say they have never felt so sick, but most are in the middle. They feel some side effects at the beginning but get better, or some days they don’t feel very good but in general, they are able to carry on with normal activity depending on other health challenges they may have as pre-existing conditions. Don’t go looking for side effects, because who knows? You may not experience any at all or even feel better. Let’s hope for that, and remember why you are doing this thing - we want to be free of hep C!

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