Can Hep C Be Cured Completely?

Medically Reviewed on 6/4/2021

The good news is hepatitis C is curable. Though it is a chronic infection, recently developed drugs can clear the virus completely from the system.
The good news is hepatitis C is curable. Though it is a chronic infection, recently developed drugs can clear the virus completely from the system.

Well, the good news is hepatitis C is curable. Though it is a chronic infection, recently developed drugs can clear the virus completely from the system. If the viral load (number of virus particles in the blood) is nil after three months of treatment completion, people are considered “cured.” This is called sustained virologic response (SVR) and data suggest that, in these cases, people will stay virus-free for life.

However, people must remember that hepatitis C is a lot more than just liver disease. Hepatitis C is often associated with many medical complications, such as a heightened risk of developing kidney diseases and cancer in the future. The drugs used in the treatment are accompanied by adverse reactions like every other drug. Hence, prevention is the best cure in this case.

Intensive therapy with antivirals against hepatitis will significantly reduce the risk of liver failure, liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant. However, often, the disease causes severe liver scarring. This scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) is irreversible and can cause potential complications, such as liver failure. Hence, people with hepatitis C need lifelong monitoring.

How is hepatitis C treated?

Acute hepatitis C is a short-term illness that can occur within the first six months after being exposed to the virus. The modes of infection are via sexual intercourse, needle stick injury, infected blood transfusion, infected organ transplant, dialysis or a mother to her child during delivery. People are also at risk if they have engaged in high-risk behaviors like intravenous (IV) drug use, shared needles or had unprotected sex.

In many cases, early hepatitis C infection can clear on its own without treatment in about one in four individuals. This is especially possible in younger people. The treatment options for hepatitis C include

Antiviral medications

These are the mainstay of treatment against hepatitis C. The treatment aims to have no detected hepatitis C virus in the body at least 12 weeks after treatment.

The "direct-acting" antiviral medications are given over 12 weeks. These are combination medications and will cure early acute hepatitis C in more than 90 percent of people. They are

The choice of medications and length of treatment depend on the

  • Hepatitis C genotype
  • Presence of existing liver damage
  • Co-existing medical conditions
  • Prior treatments

Discuss the best option with the doctor. The right medications and proper monitoring are essential.

Liver transplantation

Liver transplantation is an option if the infection is advanced and there is severe scarring in the liver. After a potential donor is found, the doctor can perform a liver transplant. During surgery, the surgeon will replace the damaged liver with a healthy liver. The transplanted livers may come from organ donors or living donors who agree to donate a portion of their livers.

Even after the transplant, the infection is likely to return. Hence, they require treatment with antiviral medication to prevent damage to the transplanted liver.

Vaccinations

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The doctor will recommend getting vaccines against hepatitis A and B viruses according to the schedule. These are separate viruses that may damage the liver and complicate the course of chronic hepatitis C.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/4/2021
References
Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354284

Diagnosing Hepatitis C. https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/hepatitis-c/diagnosing-hepatitis-c/#can-hepatitis-c-be-cured