Hepatitis C Treatment is Over... Why Do I Still Feel Badly?
Hepatitis C treatment recovery is often a mystery because just like hepatitis C, treatment is different for each patient and so is recovery. Some patient’s rarely experience any treatment side effects and some experience mild to moderate effects. Hepatitis C treatment is temporary and so is recovery. This is a short time compared to the rest of your life. You will recover.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the hepatitis C virus and keep further liver damage from occurring. The goal of post-treatment recovery is for the liver to heal and regenerate from liver damage and improve liver function. This doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient in the process.
The liver is an amazing organ which can regenerate healthy liver tissue from damaged tissue up to a point. The liver can regenerate new liver tissue from mild damage including some stages of fibrosis. But the liver cannot regenerate from severe scarring from cirrhosis. After treatment, I’ve heard many patients say they didn’t expect for the fatigue to linger as long. Some report not feeling well or having stomach issues.
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Is my hep C back?
After treatment, it’s natural for patients to wonder, "Has the hepatitis C returned or are my symptoms from treatment itself?". How can you tell if your symptoms are from treatment or hepatitis C recurrence? It’s a process of elimination.
- Report all symptoms to your liver specialist who treated you for hepatitis C.
- Make note if you experienced any of these symptoms while you were on treatment and when did they start.
- Know your liver condition. Talk to your physician about your liver damage and if you have cirrhosis. Ask if your symptoms are related to the treatment itself or from liver damage.
- If you have cirrhosis, you may be experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, high ammonia levels (that can cause confusion or brain fog), itching, swelling from ascites, or neuropathy, etc. Blood work, ultrasounds, endoscopies, and further follow up testing are necessary when you have cirrhosis.
- Diet or medication changes may need to be addressed to help symptoms. With cirrhosis, it takes longer for medications to process in the liver and get out of your system since liver function is slowed down. Report all symptoms to your liver specialist.
- If you do not have cirrhosis and your symptoms are new, you still need to report your symptoms to your liver specialist, but depending on what your symptoms are, see your primary physician and go from there. Ask for blood work, and any tests to rule out other conditions.
- Fatigue is the most common after treatment symptom. Ask your doctor about blood work to make sure you’re not anemic. B-12 vitamins are often good to help with energy.
- If you used ribavirin in your treatment, you might experience a period of insomnia or anxiety. After treatment is completed, this will begin to subside and go away. If you continue to have trouble, talk to your doctor.
Celebrate being cured!
Improved treatment with direct-acting antivirals is highly effective with over a 95% cure rate. If you achieved your SVR12 or SVR24, that means you have sustained virologic response and have a less than 1% chance of hepatitis C returning (without re-exposure). Continue to take any medications your physician has prescribed unless they advise a change. Drink a lot of water to help hydrate and flush your system. Have patience in the recovery process. Remember, your body needs time to rebuild and repair your liver.
Do you experience long-term side effects from hep C treatment?