Hepatitis C - Treatment Side Effects Experience

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Describe the side effects associated with treatment for your hepatitis C.

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What are the side effects of treatment for hepatitis C infection?

Flu-like symptoms, hair thinning and depression are common side effects of interferon or pegylated interferon. Depression may be serious and is common enough that patients should be monitored for this side effect.

Interferons may cause transient bone marrow suppression resulting in reduced white blood cell and/or red blood cell counts (leucopenia and anemia, respectively). Reductions in white blood cell counts may cause increased susceptibility to infection. Growth factors (erythropoietin) can be used to improve the anemia associated with interferon. Death rarely occurs as a result of therapy, but may occur from progressive liver failure in patients with advanced cirrhosis.

Certain side effects are attributed to the addition of ribavirin to interferon, including nausea, cough, shortness of breath, rash, itching, insomnia, and loss of appetite.

Ribavirin also causes anemia due to the destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis). This anemia is usually mild but can become clinically significant. Ribavirin particularly may cause destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis) in people with kidney failure. Anemia improves with a reduction in the dose of ribavirin.

Ribavirin also accumulates in the testicles and ovaries and causes birth defects in animals. Although no birth defects have been reported in humans as yet, both men and women should use contraceptive measures to avoid pregnancy during and for at least six months after ribavirin treatment.

Return to Hepatitis C (HCV, Hep C)

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Comment from: Why not me, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 15

For me the Interferon and Ribavirin mostly caused major fatigue; I was tired all the time. My appetite was barely affected and I gained about 10 pounds. I did lose a fair amount of hair and it also affected my eyes as any bright light was painful, so I found myself wearing sunglasses even at night. However there was one other thing. In the first month I did experience some major depression and mood swings. Unfortunately the treatment did not work as my body began to build up a tolerance to the treatment so it was discontinued after 3 months.

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Comment from: a friend, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 31

I found out I had hepatitis C 20 years ago but in the last couple of years my levels were elevated and I ended up on interferon and developed cirrhosis of the liver, stage 4. It was the hardest year of my life being on that treatment and it did a lot of damage to my teeth, you lose your hair (which of course grows back) and I got a lot of scarring from itching. The treatment has a lot of side effects and I will say causes major depression and suicidal thoughts. You need to have a lot of support which I didn't. I ended early (some people do the 6 month treatment and others have to do the yearlong treatment). I would say one needs to take good care of oneself while on the treatment. It did work for me but I'm just now, 13 months later, getting over the trauma of being on the treatment. Well, you have to do it or die from liver problems. I get checked every 3 months to see how I'm doing.

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