Understanding Hepatitis C. Know the Facts
•Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Steps to Take After a Hepatitis C Diagnosis
•.Your Hepatitis C Action Plan
It can be jarring to learn that you’re one of the 3.9 million people in the U.S. with hepatitis C — especially because the news is highly personal. You’ll have a lot of decisions to make about self-care and treatment, but the good news is that, today, the majority of people who have hepatitis C can be cured. “I am confident that I will be able to cure everyone who walks through my door with hepatitis C, if I can get the meds for them,” says Jonathan M. Fenkel, MD, assistant professor and director of the Jefferson Hepatitis C Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Follow these steps to take control of your health..Collect Your Thoughts and Breathe
If your diagnosis came as a shock, you aren’t alone. Maybe it resulted from risky behavior that occurred decades ago, or maybe you became infected from a blood transfusion that you received before the blood supply was screened. Regardless of the reason, take a deep breath and avoid panicking.“The good news is that we have a cure,” says Amy Nunn, ScD, executive director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and an associate professor of medicine and behavioral and social sciences at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in Providence. “[Hepatitis C] is a public health success story.”
What matters now is moving forward. Nunn says she always recommends getting a second viral load test, which will provide you with more information about your condition.
.Seek Out New Information
Current treatment options are more effective and have fewer side effects than older ones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the more you know about hepatitis C, the easier it’ll be to make the best decisions for the future. Plus, by reading how to avoid giving the virus to others, you’ll also be able to protect the people around you. “I encourage people not to share needles, share razors, or get tattoos,” Nunn says.
.Build Your Medical Team
You don’t have to be treated at the same clinic (or with the same doctor) who diagnosed you. In fact, you may want to seek out a provider who’s comfortable managing hepatitis C, Dr. Fenkel explains. You can ask for a referral to a hepatologist (liver specialist), a gastroenterologist (digestive tract specialist), or an infectious disease specialist whose clinic frequently works with hepatitis C patients.
.Work Closely With Your Doctor
To understand how hepatitis C is affecting your body, your doctor will likely run a number of tests on you. First up: Determining which strain of hepatitis C you have, which will influence your treatment options, Fenkel says.
“We also need to know how much damage has been done to the liver,” he says. “I usually recommend a good abdominal ultrasound to check for cirrhosis.” During testing, ask your doctor about ways to stay healthy.
.Monitor Your Hepatitis C
If you have to delay your hepatitis C treatment — for example, if you’re waiting on approval from your health insurance provider — make sure you’re tracking your condition with the proper tests, Fenkel says. These include regular blood tests such as HCV RNA PCR, which measures how much hepatitis C virus is in your blood, as well as liver function tests to check for chronic liver disease. Work with your care team to ensure you are getting tested regularly, both before and during treatment.
.Stick to the Treatment
Current medications offer the possibility of a cure in as little as 12 weeks. But some medications aren’t right for everyone. Try to keep an open mind about which treatment is best for you or your situation, Fenkel says. And regardless of which option you and your doctor choose, be sure to follow the prescription directions closely. Taking medications incorrectly can lead to liver damage and make treatment less effective, according to the American Liver Foundation.
.Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Because the hepatitis C virus can damage your liver, it’s important to take extra steps to protect this vital organ. “We tell patients that, if they drink alcohol, they should stop until they are evaluated and we see that their liver is healthy,” Fenkel says. The American Liver Foundation also recommends eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and salt and high in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and water.
.Quit Tobacco and Any Other Drugs
The American Liver Foundation recommends that you stop smoking in order to keep your liver healthy. Likewise, if you use or abuse other substances, especially injection drugs, you should quit. It’s also important to stop sharing any drug paraphernalia, a likely source of transmission. Talk to your doctor if you need help overcoming an alcohol, tobacco, or drug dependence.
Take Care of Your Emotional Health
About two in five people with hepatitis C said that their diagnosis was a traumatic experience, according to a survey published in October 2014 in the journal PLOS ONE. What’s more, older treatments for hepatitis C carried the risk of depression — but Fenkel says that newer medications have fewer emotional side effects. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, consider talking to a mental health professional.
.Pick Your Confidantes Carefully
Even though hepatitis C can be acquired through blood transfusions and needle-stick injuries, people often associate the infection with recreational drug use. Disclosing your medical information with others is a personal decision, explains gastroenterologist Daniel Raines, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine and section chief/program director of the division of gastroenterology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. At the same time, talking to trusted loved ones or other people with hepatitis C can be a source of support.
Successfully treating hepatitis C doesn’t protect you from getting infected again. Once you’ve been cured, it’s important to prevent reinfection. Remember not to share needles or drug paraphernalia; avoid unprotected or rough sex with casual sex partners; and if you get a tattoo or a piercing, make sure the needle used is new and clean, the American Liver Foundation recommends.
Sorced from link: