There is a cure for hepatitis C and treatment is free.
For most people with hepatitis C, the treatment is tablets you take for 8 to 12 weeks. Over 95% of people are cured with this treatment.
If the infection is diagnosed in the early stages (acute hepatitis C), you may not need treatment straight away. You may have another blood test after a few months to see if your body has cleared the virus.
If the infection continues for several months (chronic hepatitis C), your doctor will recommend a treatment plan.
You can get this treatment through:
- a specialist
- your methadone clinic
Your treatment plan
Treatment for chronic hepatitis C involves:
- tablets to fight the virus
- a test to see if your liver is damaged
- lifestyle changes to prevent further damage
There are 8 main strains of the virus. In Ireland, the most common strains are genotype 1 and genotype 3. You can be infected with more than 1 strain.
You'll be offered the medicine most appropriate for your type of hepatitis C.
Tests you may have
Your doctor will assess your liver for damage with a blood test or a scan called a fibroscan.
You will have blood tests 12 weeks after your treatment has stopped to see if the virus is cleared.
Hepatitis C medicines
Treatment for hepatitis C used to involve injections and taking tablets for up to 1 year. But now hepatitis C is treated using direct-acting antiviral (DAA) tablets.
DAA tablets are the safest and most effective medicines for treating hepatitis C.
They're effective at clearing the infection in more than 95% of people.
You take the tablets for 8 to 12 weeks. The length of treatment depends on the type of hepatitis C you have.
Side effects of treatment
Treatments with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) have very few side effects. Most people find DAA tablets very easy to take.
You may feel a little sick and have trouble sleeping to begin with, but this does not last long. Your nurse or doctor can suggest things to help ease any discomfort.
If you have any problems with your medicines, speak to your doctor or nurse. You need to complete the full course of treatment to clear the hepatitis C virus from your body.
Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine for a full list of possible side effects and advice about when to get medical help.
Effectiveness of treatment
Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) cure over 9 in 10 patients with hepatitis C.
If your treatment is successful, you do not have any protection against another hepatitis C infection. There are different strains of the virus. You can still catch it again.
There's no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Pregnancy and hepatitis C treatment
Some hepatitis C medicines have not been tested in pregnancy.
You should not become pregnant while taking treatment as it could be harmful to unborn babies.
If you're pregnant, delay treatment until after your baby is born.
Treatment if you are planning to get pregnant
Speak to your doctor before starting hepatitis C treatment if you plan to become pregnant in the near future.
You'll need to wait several weeks after treatment has ended before trying to get pregnant.
If you become pregnant during treatment, speak to your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options.
Risks of not getting treatment
By not getting treatment you increase your chances of developing:
- serious liver disease
- liver cancer
- liver failure or end stage liver disease
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE