There is a cure for hepatitis C and treatment is free.
You may not have any symptoms of hepatitis C. Some people feel fine for a while and then feel very tired for a few weeks.
There are things you can do to manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of liver damage from hepatitis C.
Managing symptoms of hepatitis C
Fatigue is tiredness that does not go away with rest or sleep. Fatigue is common after viral infections. It is the most common symptom of hepatitis C.
The amount of fatigue you feel does not depend on the severity of your illness.
It's important to:
When you do not feel tired, you might try to make up for lost time. But do not overdo it. You will need less total rest if you take short and frequent rest breaks. If you wait until you are exhausted to rest, it will take much longer to recover.
Hepatitis C can make life very difficult. You might find it difficult to cope and this can lead to depression.
A low mood may improve after a short time.
But see your GP if you have symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks.
Reducing the risk of liver damage
To reduce the risk of liver damage from hepatitis C it can help to:
- cut out alcohol or limit your intake
- control your weight with a healthy diet and regular exercise
- quit smoking
- get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- drink coffee - 1 or 2 cups a day may reduce the speed of liver scarring and the risk of liver cancer
Alcohol and hepatitis C
Drinking alcohol can increase the damage to your liver. If you have hepatitis C, try to cut out alcohol or limit your intake.
If you're concerned about your alcohol use and are unable to stop drinking, contact your GP. Treatments are available to help you quit.
Preventing the spread of the infection
To reduce the risk of catching or spreading hepatitis C:
clean and cover any cuts or grazes with a waterproof dressing
clean any blood from surfaces with household bleach
use a condom when you have any type of sex
do not share personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors
do not share needles or syringes with others
do not donate blood
The risk of spreading hepatitis C through sex is low. The risk is increased if there is blood present, such as menstrual blood or during anal sex.
Condoms may not be necessary for long-term monogamous couples. But it's a good idea to use them when having anal sex or sex with a new partner.
Getting help for drug use
People who inject drugs are at the highest risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C.
You should get tested regularly if you continue to inject drugs. This is because you can get hepatitis C again after treatment.
If you need information or support about drug use, contact the Drugs and Alcohol Helpline:
The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm.
There are needle exchange services in most towns and counties.
Pregnancy and hepatitis C
Treatment for hepatitis C is not recommended while you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
You can have a baby if you or your partner has hepatitis C.
But there's a small risk of hepatitis C passing:
- from mother to baby
- to the unaffected partner during unprotected sex
Ask your doctor for advice if you're planning to have a baby and you or your partner has hepatitis C.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE