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Hepatitis C treatment and remedies

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Milk Thistle

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  • The length of time for taking hepatitis C medications can take anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on what type of medicine you’re taking, the strain or genotype of the virus that you have and the symptoms you’re experiencing
  • By making positive changes in your daily habits, you can reduce the risk of spreading the infection and help protect your liver from damage

The good news is that hepatitis C is curable. In fact, the CDC notes that 15% to 25% of people with acute hepatitis C infection can clear it on their own without treatment,1 thanks to their immune system.

If the disease is diagnosed through a blood test during the early stages, you may choose not to undergo drug therapy immediately. Instead, you may wait and see if your immune system has successfully fought off the virus. You will learn this after having another blood test a few months later.2 During this period, bolstering your immunity through healthy lifestyle tactics is crucial.

However, if the infection is already chronic, then your physician may recommend conventional medications called antiviral drugs, which work to eliminate the hepatitis C virus from your system.3 Keep in mind, though, that these drugs may pose certain side effects that can add to your symptoms.

Conventional drugs used for hepatitis C

The length of time for taking hepatitis C medications can last anywhere from two to six months, depending on what type of medicines you’re taking, the genotype of the virus that you have and the severity of the symptoms you’re experiencing, such as if you already have cirrhosis. You will need to consult with your physician on this.4 Some of the typical hepatitis C drugs prescribed today include:5

  • Ribavirin — This antiviral medication is often prescribed along with other hepatitis C drugs, and is not specific to any genotype. Ribavirin is not recommended for pregnant women, as it may have possible risks to their unborn child.6
  • Epclusa — This is a combination of two drugs, namely sofosbuvir and velpatasvir, and is used for HCV-infected people with genotypes 2 and 3. Side effects of this oral medication include headaches and fatigue.7
  • Mavyret — A combination of glecaprevir and pibrentasvir, this can work on all genotypes, and can be taken by adults and adolescents 12 to 17 years old.8 It can be taken for eight weeks or up to 12 weeks, if you have cirrhosis.9 Side effects associated with Mavyret include headache, nausea, fatigue and diarrhea.10

You may need to consult your physician to help you determine the right medication for your HCV infection and the appropriate dosage. Remember that while you’re taking the drugs, you also need to have regular blood tests to see if the medications are taking effect.11

HCV drugs may have severe side effects

One of the drawbacks of taking hepatitis C medications is that they can be expensive — For example, Sovaldi, one of the other medications used for this disease, can cost $1,000 per 400-milligram pill. That means a 12-week course can cost over $84,000.12 What’s worse, these drugs that are made to “heal” you may have unpleasant effects themselves.

For example, Ribavirin may lead to nausea, vomiting, hair loss, dry skin or mouth and sleep problems,13 while Epclusa and Mavyret may cause fatigue and headaches.14,15

Viekira Pak, another combination drug used to treat genotype 1 in particular, was found to, ironically, cause liver failure, according to the U.S. FDA.16 Those who already have liver scarring have a high risk of this complication.

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Are there natural remedies for hepatitis C?

With the costs and potentially troublesome effects of hepatitis C medications, it’s no wonder that some people are turning to natural remedies to help heal the infection. The good news is that natural remedies that may help with hepatitis C are available, and include:

  • Milk thistle — Scientific studies have found that milk thistle (Silybum marianum), a plant from the aster (Asteraceae) family,17 may potentially benefit patients. A 2010 study found that this herb may have several effects on the hepatitis C virus, particularly by interfering with its life cycle. The study notes: “[T]he mechanisms of silymarin's antiviral action appear to include blocking of virus entry and transmission, possibly by targeting the host cell.”18
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) — This is a potent amino acid that can rapidly metabolize into glutathione,19 which has been dubbed “the master antioxidant.”20 A 2012 study found that HCV patients who are using the HCV drug interferon had better response to the medication when it was taken alongside NAC. This amino acid helped improved the antitumoral effect of the drug.21
  • Grapefruit — Naringenin, a flavonoid that’s abundant in grapefruit, has been found to help inhibit the hepatitis C virus without causing any toxicity.22

Remember that following a healthy lifestyle is the first step you should take if you have this disease. By making positive changes in your daily habits, you can reduce the risk of spreading the infection and help inhibit further damage to your liver.

MORE ABOUT HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C: Introduction

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C in Pregnancy

How Do You Get Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C Duration

Is Hepatitis C Contagious?

Hepatitis C Causes

Hepatitis C Types

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C Prevention

Hepatitis C Diet

Hepatitis C FAQ

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