Hepatitis C is considered as a common virus that is easily spread through blood-to-blood contact with infected individuals. It can also be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected individual or by sharing personal care items contaminated with blood but these are less common. Remember that the disease is not spread via food, breast milk as well as water or through casual contact such as kissing, hugging and sharing of food and beverages.
The immune system can fight off bacterial infections and various viruses that cause flu and common cold. On the other hand, it cannot easily kill the hepatitis C virus. Luckily, there are medications used to manage the condition.
Interferon is the protein naturally produced in the body. The synthetic version administered using an injection once a week will stimulate the immune system to neutralize the hepatitis C virus. Another is ribavirin which is a medication taken orally on a daily basis to fight certain viruses including hepatitis C.
Side effects of treatment
The medications used in managing hepatitis C can cause certain side effects such as the flu-like reaction that vanishes after a few weeks. Most of the side effects are not life-threatening. Nevertheless, it can be difficult for some to tolerate them during the full course of treatment that lasts from 6 months to a year. As long as the individual is aware of the potential side effects of the treatment, he/she can be prepared to manage them.
Physical side effects
- Muscle aches
- Poor appetite
- Diarrhea or nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth and thick saliva
While the individual is treated for hepatitis C, it is vital to stay healthy. It simply means that the individual should eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. In case the side effects make the individual sick, a doctor should be consulted.
Mental side effects
- Low mood or depression
It is important to note that interferon stimulates certain parts of the body, oftentimes making it hard to sleep. Lack of sleep and rest can cause issues such as anxiety or irritability. A doctor must be consulted regarding measures to help the individual sleep. It is recommended to stick with a regular sleeping schedule, talking to others, timing the medications as well as relaxation techniques. These can help the individual physically and mentally. By enrolling in a first aid class, you can help ease these side effects.
Effects on hair and skin
- Hair loss
- Reactions at the injection site
- Skin rashes
Those who are currently taking interferon can experience a certain degree of hair loss. Once the treatment ends, the hair will grow back. As for the skin rashes due to ribavirin, they usually come and go mainly on the arms and body. The reactions at the injection site can be minimized by rotating the site and applying an ice pack.
When to consult a doctor
Even though rare, hepatitis C medications can cause serious side effects. It is important to seek medical help if the individual experiences the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Thyroid issues
- Visual changes