How Do You Feel After Hep C Treatment?

Reviewed on 1/13/2023

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After receiving hep C treatment, some people feel better within weeks after stopping medications, but some may have side effects of medications for days or weeks.

Hep C (hepatitis C) is an infection and inflammation of the liver. There are several types of infectious hepatitis, caused by different viruses

Hepatitis C is a form of hepatitis that can cause an acute or chronic infection that can lead to liver damage and severe scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and an increased risk of liver cancer.

Medications for hepatitis C are effective on certain forms of the hepatitis C virus. The choice of medications depends on: 

  • The type of hepatitis C 
  • If you have been treated for hep C before
  • The amount of liver damage that has occurred
  • Other underlying medical issues that may be present
  • Other medications you take

Treatment for hepatitis C usually involves 8 to 12 weeks of oral antiviral medications, such as:

Treatments for hep C are easy and effective. They tend to have few side effects and can treat all genotypes of the virus. Most people can perform their normal, everyday activities while undergoing treatment. 

When hep C treatment ends, some people feel better within weeks after stopping medications. However, many will still have some side effects of medications for days or weeks, and others will need extended time to heal. 

  • Three months after finishing treatment for hep C, people will need a PCR viral detection test to check if they are cured. 
  • If people are cured, they may still have existing liver damage and may experience symptoms related to that. Damage to the liver may be irreversible. 
  • In about five percent of cases, treatment does not cure hep C. Patients are usually referred to a liver specialist (hepatologist) for consultation. It may be possible to repeat the same treatment or use a different treatment drug.

What Are Symptoms of Hep C?

Most people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. When symptoms of hepatitis C occur, they may include:

Over time, hepatitis C infections can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Swelling in the belly and legs, and fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Confusion that can occur suddenly
  • Coma
  • Increased risk of developing liver cancer

What Is the Main Cause of Hep C?

Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can be transmitted through infected blood or body fluids that contain blood. Exposure may occur from: 

  • Injection-drug use (the most common way HCV is transmitted in the U.S.) 
  • Birth to an HCV-infected mother

Less frequently, hepatitis C can be spread through:

  • Sexual activity with an HCV-infected person (uncommon)
    • People who have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), have sex with multiple partners, and engage in anal sex appear are at increased risk for contracting hepatitis C
  • Sharing personal items contaminated with blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
  • Invasive medical procedures, such as injections 
  • Needlestick injuries in healthcare settings
  • Unregulated tattooing
  • Receipt of donated blood, blood products, and organs 
    • Rare in the U.S. since blood screening became available in 1992

How Is Hep C Diagnosed?

Viral hepatitis is diagnosed with a patient history, a physical examination, and blood tests. A blood test called an HCV antibody test (sometimes called the anti-HCV test) can show if someone has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. 

If the HCV antibody tests are positive, there may be a follow-up HCV RNA test to determine if an active infection is present.

Other tests may be indicated to check for liver damage, including: 

Reviewed on 1/13/2023
Image source: iStock Images