A diagnosis of hepatitis C can leave you feeling shocked and worried. You’ll probably experience a variety of emotions, such as denial, anger and even depression.
One of the easiest ways to cope with the news and learn to live – and live well – with a diagnosis of hep C is to learn as much about the disease as you can.
Your doctor is the ideal person to speak to about how it will affect your day-to-day life, the best available treatments for you and about making small lifestyle changes that can often make all the difference.
Write down the questions you want to ask. You may wish to take a friend or family member to your appointments for extra support. Here are some ideas for conversation starters:
1. Why do I need blood tests?
Because the disease will often show no symptoms, blood tests are necessary so your doctor can monitor the virus in your blood and help to determine the best treatment for you. Ask your doctor if it is appropriate for you to be immunized against Hepatitis A and B. You can find out more information about blood tests here.
2. What are the best treatments for me?
Ask about the risks, benefits and side-effects before you take any new medication. Make sure you are confident you understand what your doctor says. It is always better to ask if there is something you are not clear about
3. If I have recovered from Hepatitis C, am I now immune?
Although 1 in 5 people will recover naturally from the acute phase of HCV, the virus changes so quickly that your body will not be immune from contracting it again. If you have recovered, ask your doctor about what you can do to minimise the risk of being infected again.
4. What can I do to stay healthy?
Your doctor will have lots of information and advice about staying healthy. From reducing stress and improving your diet to getting more exercise, there are lots of things you can do to support your liver and stay fit and well.
5. Are there any over-the-counter medications I should avoid?
You should tell your doctor about all the medications that you are taking, including vitamin and mineral supplements. Be honest about your alcohol consumption and drug use – if any – as alcohol and drugs can cause great stress on your liver, which is already vulnerable from the effects of the virus.
6. Where can I find more support?
You’re not alone. There are plenty of groups than can provide support, advice and a friendly ear. Ask your doctor about local groups and resources.
Click here to find out more about hep C resources and support groups.
7. Do I need to follow a special diet?
While there is no specific diet that you must follow, it’s smart to opt for a balanced diet, high in fresh fruit and vegetables and low in processed, fast-foods. Our guest blogger Karen Hoyt has written about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Your doctor can advise on the right foods for you.
8. How can I talk to my family and friends about my diagnosis?
You don’t have to tell everyone about your diagnosis but support from loved ones is important. We recently shared our advice on talking to friends and family about hep C.
9. How can I protect my liver?
It’s best to abstain from alcohol to protect your liver from damage. Talk to your doctor about other liver-protection strategies.
10. Are there any clinical trials that I can take part in?
Clinical trials are vital for the development of new treatments. Benefits to taking part can include the opportunity to try an innovative new treatment and close monitoring by a medical team. Ask about trials that might be taking place in your area.