Hepatitis C Survivor  

Hepatitis C - Just The Facts

Written By:  Teri Gottlieb

How many times have you started to have a conversation with someone about Hepatitis C only to have it blow up in your face? Have you ever heard someone say something about Hep C that didn't seem quite right to you? You were probably right, and something was amiss. A discussion about Hepatitis C can often ignite some sparks. What starts out to be a fairly quiet discussion can turn into a brawl in a heartbeat. There is so much passion around this subject, especially with those of us who have or have had this virus. The problem comes when some of the critical facts about the virus and disease process are misunderstood by one or more of the parties involved.

So much information about Hepatitis C is out there and sometimes it's hard to keep all the facts straight. There are some facts about Hepatitis C that tend to be a hot button for some people. Because I want you to be informed and I want you to be on the right side of the argument, here are the facts on some of the most commonly discussed issues regarding Hep C.

Fact: If you have Chronic Hepatitis C and you have a viral load, your HCV is NOT going to go away on it's own. It just doesn't happen like that. This becomes a bone of contention when people don't know the difference between Acute Hepatitis C and Chronic Hepatitis C. An Acute Hepatitis C infection will usually come on strong and clear itself up within 6 months. No medication or treatment is necessary other than to treat the symptoms. A Chronic Hepatitis C infection will still be there after 6 months. 

Fact: Your viral load can change from day to day, week to week and even hour to hour. Your body does not feel this change nor is it any indication of the progress of your Hepatitis C.

Fact: Your viral load is NOT an indication of liver damage. It is just an indicator that you have active Hepatitis C viruses in your bloodstream. This number is ONLY important when you are treating the virus. If your viral load is 500,000 when you are tested the first time and a year later, without any treatment it's 300,000, it does not mean your Hep C has gotten better. It just means it's there. At the other end of this spectrum, if your viral load goes up from one test to the other, it doesn't mean your Hep C has gotten worse. Again, it just means it's there. 

Fact: There is currently nothing that can clear the Hepatitis C virus from your bloodstream other than the currently FDA approved medications.  These medications are Peg-Interferon, Ribavirin, Incivek, Victrelis, Sovaldi and Olysio. Supplements will not make your Hep C go away. 

Fact: If you have Hepatitis C and you receive a liver transplant, after your transplant you will STILL have Hep C. The virus is not contained in your liver, it is circulating in your bloodstream, therefore, the new liver will soon be attacked by HCV. At some point, you will need to treat your Hep C. Getting a new liver and refusing to treat it while you are still infected with Hepatitis C just doesn't make sense. 

Fact: Drinking alcohol when you have Hepatitis C is like pouring gasoline on a fire. You are killing yourself. If you are considering treatment for Hep C, doctors will not treat you until you have been alcohol free for 6 months. Do yourself a favor, put the beer down.

Fact: Hepatitis C can be CURED. The Standard of Care treatment doesn't work for everyone but for those that it does work for, they are cured after reaching SVR (Sustained Viral Response) 6 months after treatment ends. There are people who still debate this. They will use the word remission instead of cured. The "cured" word was first used in 2010. They were not using the word before that time because they did not have 10 years worth of data. In 2010 they did. They were able to say that 10 years later, the people treated were still clear. CURED.

Fact: Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood to blood contact. Period. That is the only way it is transmitted.

Fact: In some cases, Hepatitis C can and will cause liver cancer. Not everyone who has Hep C will get liver cancer but some, a small percentage, will. 

Fact: There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. There IS a vaccine for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. If you have Hepatitis C you should get vaccinated against the other two.

Fact: Not everyone with Hepatitis C needs to be treated. Yes, in a perfect world, everyone infected would treat and clear the virus, but the reality is that only 20% of the people who have this virus will go on to develop any serious liver disease. Most people can and do carry on with their lives without any impact from their HCV.

These aren't ALL the facts about Hepatitis C, not by any stretch of the imagination, but these are some of the more highly disputed ones. I hope these facts help you stay on the right side of the argument.