Tag: Hep C

Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis. Know Your Risk!

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, a disease that goes hand-in-hand with drug use. Are you or could you be at risk? Knowledge is power! Read on to learn more about this disease and how to prevent it, and the basic facts.

Hepatitis in a Nutshell

There are three kinds of hepatitis, and the cause and effects are quite different for each. It is completely possible to have hepatitis and not even know at first, since there can be no symptoms. Hepatitis A is a rare form of the disease spread through contaminated food or drink, travelling to certain countries where the disease is prevalent, having sexual encounters with an infected person, or illegal drug injection. It is preventable by vaccine and typically resolves within days to a week.

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection that is caused by a virus. For some people it becomes chronic, which can lead to liver failure, cancer, or cirrhosis. Finally, Hepatitis C is the strain most commonly associated with drug use, and unfortunately 75 to 85% of people who have it develop a long-term chronic condition. It is one of the top reasons people get liver transplants.

Why is Hepatitis C So Prevalent in the Drug Community?Hepatitis C Awareness

One of the leading causes of transmission of Hepatitis C is through drug injection, especially sharing drugs and needles. It only takes one time of sharing a needle or paraphernalia with an infected person to contract the disease, and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the needle itself that poses a threat.

Drug solutions that are prepared using a single set of equipment like cookers and filtration cotton provide an additional route or transmission for the disease from one user to another. Entire groups of people that use together can become infected this way, because anyone injecting the drug that was prepared in the contaminated cooker or cotton is injecting the virus directly into their bloodstream.

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Think You May Have Been Exposed?

Get tested. A blood test is the only way to determine if you do in fact have the virus, and from there you can figure out a treatment plan with your doctor. Symptoms include fevers, muscle and joint pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and weakness. However, often there are no symptoms at all until the disease has progressed. Catching it early can lead to a better outcome. Hepatitis C treatment has changed drastically in the past few years, and many options are out there to help anyone who has the disease live a long, healthy, and full life.

Protect Yourself

The best thing to do, as with any disease, is to prevent exposure in the first place. An obvious one would be to not use intravenous drugs, and if you are in the depths of addiction, seek the help you need. If you are using drugs, until you stop completely make sure never to share any needles or equipment.

If you live with or are in contact with someone who has the disease, or are unsure, drastic measures do not need to be taken, just simple steps to protect yourself. Never share toothbrushes, razors or other personal care items. Always practice safe sex to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C. Also, beware of procedures like tattoos and body piercing – always make sure the equipment used is brand-new, sterile, and the practitioner is licensed.


Why is Hepatitis C Spreading Across the US in Record Numbers?

Hepatitis C in America

hep c viral disease

What’s the worst disease you can think of?

Most people would probably say AIDS, cancer, or maybe the avian flu. Not many are going to say hepatitis C.

Guess what though? Hep C is currently spreading across the United States at far greater rates than any of the above.

It isn’t easy to admit, or pleasant to think about, but we’re in the midst of several wars. We’re fighting painkillers, heroin, synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts, and now – Hep C and liver disease.

Some sources are quick to point out that as IV heroin use has exploded, so have cases of Hep C. While the two have a close relationship, there still isn’t definitive proof one way of the other.

What we do know, and what affects people like you and me, is this – hepatitis C infection is up approximately 273% from 2009. Something very bad is going on here.

What is Hep C?

Although it’s often talked about, Hep C isn’t that well understood.

While explaining the ins and outs would take much more space than we have – not to mention, hepatitis C and various treatments are explored here – we’ll give you the basics.

Hep C, also known as HCV, is a viral infection that attacks the liver.


    • It can be symptomatic (showing signs) or asymptomatic (showing no signs)


    • It leads to fibrosis (scar tissue), cirrhosis (a build up of scar tissue on the liver causing major problems), and, in some cases, liver cancer


  • It can be acute (the first six months after becoming infected) or chronic (an HCV infection that last longer than six months. Most instances of HCV are chronic)

hep c liver
Hepatitis C is different from hepatitis A or B. Hep A is spread through contaminated food and water and has a vaccine. Hep B is spread through contact with infected body fluids and also has a vaccine.

HCV, on the other hand, is spread through blood-to-blood contact and has no vaccine. The primary route of infection is through IV drug users sharing needles.

Just How Quickly is Hep C Spreading?

That’s the real question, right? How bad is HCV in America? Find that information and more below:

    • Cases of acute Hep C grew 273% between 2009 and 2013


    • That breaks down to over 19,000 deaths due to HCV in 2013


    • This is up from 16,235 deaths in 2009


    • During early 2015, an average of 48,000 prescriptions were filled per month for Hep C fighting medications (Harvoni, Sovaldi, interferon, etc.)


  • Between 2007 and 2013, heroin use also exploded – rising close to 150%

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All statistics taken from the Star Tribune.

Since injection drug use is the primary transmission route of HCV and, during the same time period, both Hep C and heroin use increased dramatically – it’s safe to say the two are related.

Officials can’t say whether increased heroin use is the only cause, or even the primary cause, for the drastic increase in Hep C infections. Still, it’s clear the two are linked and having some impact on each other.

What States are Being Hit the Hardest?

Based on the above numbers, it isn’t hyperbole to say we’re in the grip of a hepatitis C outbreak…but what does that look like from the ground? What does it look like in individual states and counties?

Well, again according to the Star Tribune, it looks something like this:

    • The national rate of HCV infection is around .7 per 100,000 people. In Washington County, Maine, the rate is around 6 per 100,000 people.


    • Madison County, in Indiana, had 70 cases of Hep C in 2013. This number increased to 130 in 2014. All of which is to say nothing about Indiana’s HIV outbreak.


    • HCV infection in Massachusetts has grown from 10 new cases in 2009 to 174 in 2013.


    • Kentucky has 5.1 cases of acute Hep C infection per 100,000 people. Remember, the national average is .7 cases per 100,000 people.

iv drug use can cause hcv

  • Hepatitis C is on the rise in Springfield, Missouri. Although exact figures aren’t available, heroin is being seized at around five times the rate it was in 2013. This suggests cases of Hep C will be around five times higher than normal.

What Can We Do?

It’s easy to sit back and say that hepatitis C is on the rise in America. What isn’t so easy, though, is figuring out just what to do to slow it down.

Thankfully, there are a host of new medications that boast upwards of a 90% success rate in curing cases of Hep C. These, mentioned briefly above, are Harvoni, Sovaldi, and other direct protein inhibitors.

viral view of what hep c looks like

The downside to these new meds is their cost. They routinely cost upwards of $100,000 for a full course of therapy. This makes insurance companies wary of giving people the go ahead to take them.

The other major option we have is harm reduction. This is a form of substance abuse treatment aimed at helping addicts to, as the name suggests, reduce the potential harm of addiction.

It’s comprised of techniques like methadone maintenance, syringe exchanges, basic healthcare services, safe injection sites, and others.

Despite offering some major benefits – making sure addicts have access to clean syringes can almost entirely wipe out blood-borne disease like HCV – it’s also controversial and faces steep opposition from many politicians.

Regardless of where you stand on harm reduction, the fact that is can help to reduce the current spread of Hep C is pretty impressive. That’s something we can all agree on.

What do you think about the recent rise in Hep C infections? Let us know on social media.

Coffee Reduces the Risk of Cancer!

Thank God for Coffee!

In a new report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), coffee has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of liver cancer. Three cheers and three shots of espresso all around!

coffee cancer

Even better news is that coffee can actually counteract the harmful physical effects of alcohol. The WCRF’s data concluded that one cup of coffee reduces the risk of developing liver cancer by 14%. Three more cheers and three more shots of espresso!

Okay, I’m going a bit overboard with the espresso jokes here. All jokes aside, this is great news for a number of reasons. First, it means people who drink coffee are less likely to get cancer. With liver cancer claiming the lives of approximately 745,000 people in 2012 alone, we can all agree that less cancer is a good thing.

Second, and here’s where things get interesting for men and women in recovery, we love coffee! Think about it – what’s constant at AA meetings across the globe? Well, besides recovery, it’s the coffee pot.

If each cup we drink lowers our risk by 14%, well, then there’s no chance I’m getting liver cancer anytime soon. God bless coffee. This new report is also good news for individuals in recovery struggling with Hepatitis C.

The end result of Hep C, if left untreated, is cirrhosis and liver cancer. Come into recovery, put down the cigarettes, and start drinking coffee. You now have a leg up on Hep C. Of course, you should still see a doctor and start some form of treatment!

Learn the weird ways that alcohol can impact the body

How Coffee Protects Our Bodies

The World Cancer Research Fund’s data was gathered from numerous studies and over eight million people, over 24,000 of who had liver cancer. Their findings? Simple, coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer.

Okay, fair enough. But how? How does coffee protect our livers and how much should we be drinking? Find out below:

• Coffee helps fight Type 2 Diabetes. Although this isn’t directly linked to liver cancer, Type 2 Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of developing liver cancer. Coffee improves insulin sensitivity, which contributes to a lower risk of diabetes.

• Coffee actually lowers the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to potential tumors on the liver. I’m not 100% sure how this works (the language of the WCRF’s report was very scientific and above my head), but better minds than mine say it does. I’ll take their word for it!

• Compounds in coffee help repair DNA damage in blood cells by releasing something called Phase II enzymes. Less DNA damage means fewer free radicals, which, in turn, means a lower risk of cancer.

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• Coffee and coffee extracts help to reduce inflammation. All types of cancer are, at their most basic, an inflammation and build up of damaged cells.

• Individuals with Hepatitis C who drink coffee may induce something called apoptosis. Apoptosis is when the body destroys cells that are a “threat” to its safety.

• Compounds in coffee help to trigger the endogenous defense system. This is similar to apoptosis and one way for the body to protect itself against potentially harmful or damaged cells.

How Much Coffee Should You Drink?

Good stuff! It certainly seems like coffee offers many benefits, both for the liver and the entire body. One key question lacking an answer, however, is how much coffee someone should drink.

This is pretty important. After all, too much coffee leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate. Both of these things can trigger heart disease which is just as harmful as liver cancer.

The WCRF’s report was unable to reach a definitive conclusion about how much coffee to drink. Rather, they recommend one cup a day. Remember, a single cup of coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer by 14%.

It looks like our morning cup of coffee isn’t just waking us up, it’s also helping us fight against cancer!

What you NEED to know about cirrhosis of the liver

Indiana’s HIV Outbreak Gets Worse

HIV Outbreak Goes From Bad to Worse

Not long ago, Lighthouse reported on the rising number of Indiana residents contracting HIV. These cases were all linked back to prescription drug abuse, specifically to injecting the painkiller Opana.

indiana hiv state of emergency

Well things just got worse.

There have been upwards of seventy confirmed cases of HIV since the outbreak started in December and that number is expected to grow. While most cases have been limited to Scott and other counties in the southeastern corner of the state, officials believe this is a statewide problem.

In response to the HIV outbreak, Indiana governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency. He issued an executive order and put into effect “preventative measures” to help stop the spread of HIV.

What are these measures and why do many Indiana residents believe they’re not enough? Find out below.

Learn about the new Hep C treatment that’s being called a miracle!

How Will Indiana Contain the Outbreak?

In light of the over seventy Scott County residents infected with HIV, Indiana officials have taken some drastic measures. Specifically, Gov. Mike Pence has issued a thirty-day executive order aimed at containing the spread of HIV.

Gov. Pence’s order will include measures like increased addiction treatment, HIV treatment, a needle safety awareness program, and a campaign spreading awareness about HIV, drug abuse, and safe sex. Finally, needle exchange programs will be sanctioned in Scott County.

Needle exchange programs are locations where IV drug users can go and turn in used syringes for new ones. They frequently offer health services like HIV, Hep C, and STD screenings and safe injection practice information.

The governor has made clear that this needle exchange program isn’t here to stay. Rather, it will last thirty-days and is aimed only at stopping the spread of HIV. Pence has also stated that if the state legislature were to pass a law making needle exchange programs legal, he’ll veto it.

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Will This Stop the Spread of HIV?

There are numerous critics of Gov. Pence’s plan. One of these is Beth Meyerson, the Co-Director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention. Meyerson believes the governor’s needle exchange program is doomed to failure. She’s stated,

“There’s zero evidence to support the governor’s proposition. His solution is not based on public health science. I appreciate the governor’s flexibility, bit it’s not even close to being an appropriate response” (Uptown Magazine).

Mrs. Meyerson isn’t alone in her critique of Pence’s response to the HIV outbreak. Dr. Kevin Burke, a public health officer from one of the affected counties, believes a thirty-day needle exchange program won’t offer any sort of long-term solution and may not even work in the short-term.

Others believe that those infected with HIV may continue to spread the disease. Jeanni McCarty, office manager at Foundations Family Medicine, described a conversation with one infected woman –

“The young woman came to her recently and confessed that not only did she use intravenous drugs and share needles with those around her, but she helped fund her habit with prostitution. She said she tested positive in January and since then, she estimated, she has had sexual relations with about 75 truck drivers passing through the area” (USA Today).

While that’s a scary thing to think about, it’s also representative of the outbreak as a whole. Sharing contaminated needles directly causes HIV, but there are many other factors to consider. Things like lifestyle factors, how individuals finance their addictions, and even their living situations all need to be taken into account.

There’s no doubt that a thirty-day needle exchange program, paired with increased drug treatment, HIV education and preventative resources, will do tremendous good for Indiana. Still, I can’t help but think that something more is needed.

I’m not sure what that something more is, though. Perhaps Indiana does need a statewide syringe exchange program. Perhaps it simply needs to become proactive, rather than reactionary, about stopping the spread of HIV and other drug borne illnesses.

One thing is very clear though – Indiana needs to do something and Gov. Pence’s thirty-day state of emergency is as good a place as any to start.

Learn why practicing safe sex in sobriety is important!

What You NEED to Know about Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis, at its most basic, is the scarring of the liver. In turn, this scarring leads to reduced liver functions. Considering the liver is involved in almost every major function of our bodies, cirrhosis is extremely dangerous.

cirrhosis of the liver

While cirrhosis of the liver is often thought to be a disease in and of itself, it’s not. Rather, it’s a condition brought on by various other liver diseases. These include: Hepatitis C and B, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), Cystic Fibrosis, Galactosemia, Wilson’s Disease, and others.

Rarely, cirrhosis of the liver can occur without any known cause. This is referred to as idiopathic cirrhosis.

Clocking in at a frightening 30%, Hepatitis B is the leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver. Hepatitis C is the second leading cause at 27%. Alcoholic liver disease comes in third.

The liver is “attacked” by the above diseases and builds up layers of fibrosis (scar tissue) and nodules (lumps of damaged tissue). These slow the functions of the liver and result in various cirrhosis symptoms.

What’s wet brain?

Cirrhosis Symptoms

Cirrhosis symptoms vary in range from mild to severe. Still, it’s generally agreed that all cirrhosis symptoms are bad.

Find common cirrhosis symptoms below:

• Ascites – an accumulation of fluid leading to a distended abdomen. This is the most common symptom of cirrhosis of the liver.

• Gynecomastia – an increase in men’s breast gland size.

• Changes in liver size – often, patients with cirrhosis of the liver have enlarged or shrunken livers.

• Hypogonadism – a decrease in sex hormones. Often manifests as a loss of sex drive, impotence, or infertility.

• Jaundice – a yellow discoloration of the skin.

• Hepatic encephalopathy – cirrhosis of the liver can cause the liver to stop removing ammonia from the blood. This leads to unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and changes in sleep patterns.

• Kidney Failure – perhaps the most dangerous symptom of cirrhosis of the liver.

Having examined various cirrhosis symptoms, let’s turn our attention to alcoholic cirrhosis.

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Alcoholic Cirrhosis

As mentioned above, alcoholic liver disease is a large cause of cirrhosis of the liver. In fact, alcoholic cirrhosis is thought to account for 20% of all cases. That’s a pretty large number, which, in human terms, means a lot of people are walking around with alcoholic cirrhosis.

Chronic alcoholism (defined here as over a decade of heavy drinking) leads to a reduction in the liver’s ability to metabolize protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and a build up of acetaldehyde. In turn, these lead to more stress on the liver, reduced functioning, and fibrosis.

Does alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver differ from other forms? Well, in most ways, it doesn’t. Alcoholic cirrhosis does, however, bring with it dangerous environmental factors. Simply put, individuals who’re drinking heavily aren’t likely to take care of themselves. They often have poor diets and may be resistant to medical treatment. Alcoholics are also known to engage in dangerous behavior while dunk, which can put more stress on the body and liver.

Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver also accounts for a large number of deaths. In the United States, approximately 40%, or two of every five, cirrhosis related deaths are linked to alcohol use.

Cotton fever is caused by WHAT?!

Cirrhosis Stages

Cirrhosis of the liver can, broadly speaking, be broken down into four stages. These are referred to as the cirrhosis stages. Find them below:

• Cirrhosis Stage #1

This stage consists of swelling and inflammation of the liver. There may be abnormal connective tissue growth. In this first stage of cirrhosis, inflammation and abnormal growth are limited the area of the liver around the hepatic artery and vein, also known as the portal area.

• Cirrhosis Stage #2

This stage is similar to the first, but also involves the fibrosis.

alcoholic cirrhosis
image via Wikimedia Commons

• Cirrhosis Stage #3 –

The third stage of cirrhosis of the liver consists of advanced fibrosis and is sometimes called bridging fibrosis. In this stage, the fibrosis has begun to form bridges between the hepatic artery and vein and other areas. This makes it significantly harder for the liver to do its job. It also raises blood pressure, resulting in hepatic hypertension.

• Cirrhosis Stage #4 –

This stage consists of fibrosis and nodules significantly impairing liver functions. This is also the stage at which most cirrhosis symptoms begin to appear. At this stage, a liver transplant is recommended.

Have you or a loved one suffered from cirrhosis due to alcoholism or drugs? Learn how to stop getting high for good!

How I Beat Hep C

I Have What?!

I was feeling fatigued and getting headaches. I never get headaches, so I started to wonder what the hell was going on.

Being a man in recovery, it’s not strange that I knew plenty of people with Hepatitis C. In fact, I was dating a girl who had it. My level of caution in the bedroom could leave something to be desired. So, I was a bit concerned, enough to get tested.

I got a call later that week. “We got your results back, you’ll have to speak with the doctor.” My heart started sinking. You always know its bad news when they don’t just tell you but say “you have to speak with the Dr.” So, I called the doctor and sure enough, “Your test results came back positive for Hep C.” There we go, my heart sank.

hep c

Two years into sobriety and I find out I have HCV! What the hell, I thought I was in the clear! Turns out I wasn’t. It also turns out that I should have been tested six months after I got sober, which I never did. I’ll probably never know where I got Hep C from. I was an IV drug user, was it that? Did I have it the whole time? Did I get it from my girlfriend? I guess it’s not really important.

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Sitting on My Pity-Pot

There I sat in my car, shocked that I had a chronic liver disease. A chronic liver disease I had to tell my sexual partners about, past present and future. A chronic liver disease I could spread to others. A chronic liver disease that could eventually kill me. My bullet-dodging days where over. Where had all my positivity gone? I just found out I have Hep C. Game over. No one will want to be with me. Everyone will assume I’m a needle junkie, I’m gross, and my blood is toxic.

This kind of thinking wasn’t going to help me at all. I thought I better deal with this. I remembered from others experiences that there was a way out. There was hope.

Fortunately, I’d done enough work on myself to realize that if I approached this situation in a positive light, and took immediate and aggressive action, I’d be just fine. My experience in sobriety had shown me that whenever I was faced with a challenge, if I just walked through the fear, I’d come out the other side as a stronger person. The greater the fear, the stronger I became. I knew there was a cure for most people. I also knew going through the medication process was grueling and sometimes unsuccessful.

I got off my pity-pot and started taking immediate action! I started researching everything I could about HCV – how to seek treatment, what treatments where most promising, how to approach doctors, and what questions to ask. The first thing I had to do was gather copies of all my medical records and testing information. I couldn’t take no for an answer in acquiring these and I wouldn’t take no.

I found a gastroenterologist (a digestive track and liver specialist), set up an appointment, and prepared a long list of questions. I went in prepared. My iPhone recorder was running for my review later on. On my visit, I learned a few things, one of which was that south Florida just so happens to be a leader in Hepatitis C research! I probably couldn’t be living in a better place in the world to get treated for this. I also learned there were new and exciting breakthroughs in treatment, breakthroughs that could prove to be more effective and less grueling.

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New Types of Hep C Treatment

The doctor wanted me to get a liver biopsy, something I wasn’t so sure was necessary. He also wanted to send me down to a specialist in Miami. He thought I might qualify for a clinical trial. So, down to the University of Miami I went.

I found out I hadn’t been sober long enough to qualify for any of their trials, which almost brought me to tears. Remember, I’d promised myself not to take no for an answer.

I asked for phone numbers to other doctors running trials. I got the numbers and started dialing. This led me to the South Florida Center for Gastroenterology, who had a trial I was a perfect candidate for!

It was for those with Genotype 1 being treated for the first time. The medications didn’t include the dreaded Interferon, had very few side effects, lasted only three months, and was 98% effective in eradicating this thing that was slowly destroying my liver. Now came the hard part, waiting for the call about whether I’d been accepted to the trial. They said it could be weeks, months, even a year! They also said my chances of getting into the next trial were promising because I had ALL of my test results and paper work and I’d already gotten that liver biopsy I was so against getting. Sure enough, I got the phone call within a few weeks to come in and get started on the medication.

A simple guide to understanding the different types of Hep C treatment

I’m Cured!

The trial was being held up at the South Florida Center for Gastroenterology in Wellington. It’s my understanding they have trials all the time. I went in and they were very friendly. They explained how I’d be put on a combination of the drugs ABT-450/r/ABT-267, ABT-333, and Ribavirin. I would be on the medication for three months.

The trial went smoothly. I had to go in for regular check ups and to get my blood drawn. Finally, the three months were up and the verdict was in. The virus had been cleared, eradicated, destroyed. It was amazing news.

I got another checkup six months later and the same news made it official. I was considered cured! I didn’t have to worry about it anymore!

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Hope for Everyone with Hep C

hepatitis c

It’s funny in a way. I might have gotten Hep C as a result of my addiction, certainly as the result of someone’s addiction, but I was only able to deal with having it as a result of my sobriety. If I hadn’t been in such a good place spiritually, the news would have been devastating. I easily could have drowned my sorrows with drugs and alcohol, which would have made me unqualified for any trials, and would have damaged my liver even more.

Instead, I was in a position where I quickly accepted the news and worked hard to deal with the situation. Just like my program, I took it one step at a time. I took suggestions, walked through the fear, and came out the other side free of Hepatitis C.

My story might not be like others. Some have stories of very difficult, even unsuccessful, treatments. Some might have a type of Hep C that doesn’t work with the medication I took. The point of sharing my experience is to spread the idea that there’s hope, there’s help, and that you’re not alone.

For many of you, there’s a way out, a way that doesn’t require six to twelve months of uncomfortable sickness, hair falling out, and constant fatigue. You just have to take the action to find it and don’t take no for an answer.

For more information on possible trials and treatment I suggest contacting the South Florida Center for Gastroenterology. They saved my life.

South Florida Center for Gastroenterology
Dr. Jane Wall
(561) 798-2425 Ext: 6

And remember, don’t give up until you get what you need.

The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous. However, if you have any questions, please contact info@lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com and the email will be forwarded to the author.

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A Simple Guide to Understanding HCV Treatment

What is HCV?

hcv treatment

What is HCV? I’ll give you a hint, you probably already know, though you may not have heard of it by this particular name.

HCV is an acronym for the Hepatitis C virus. To put it another way, HCV is the virus that causes Hep C. In turn, Hep C is a liver disease that leads cirrhosis, or a hardening, of the liver.

There are seven different types of HCV. These are labeled genotypes 1 to 7. Genotype 1 is the most common form of Hep C, accounting for approximately 70% of all infections. Genotype 2 accounts for around 20%, with the remaining genotypes accounting for around 1% each.

How is HCV Spread?

HCV is spread through blood-to-blood contact. This frequently occurs from unsafe IV drug use. Think things like sharing needles, not properly disposing of used syringes, or unsafe syringe sterilization.

what is hcv

HCV can also be spread through blood transfusions, sex, unsterile tattooing, and anything which requires blood to blood contact.

Find out how needle exchange programs cut down on the transmission of HCV

What is HCV? A Nightmare

HCV affects approximately 150 million people worldwide. Of those millions, HCV related liver disease kills between 350,000 and 500,000 people each year.

So, what is HCV? It’s a nightmare for addicts and their loved ones. In years past, there have been various HCV treatments of moderate success. However, as science progresses, HCV treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Now that we’ve thoroughly answered the question “what is HCV?”, let’s examine some common HCV symptoms.

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HCV Symptoms

Hepatitis C is an unusual disease in that it doesn’t immediately present symptoms. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 80% of those infected with HCV are asymptomatic or don’t exhibit symptoms.

HCV has a six-month incubation period. Following this period, symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Fever like Symptoms
  • Joint Pain
  • Jaundice

Now that we’ve looked at various HCV symptoms, let’s turn our attention to different treatment options.

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HCV Treatment

This is where things can get a bit confusing. There are a ton of HCV treatment options available. These range from homeopathic remedies to cutting edge medical care.

The goal of HCV treatments is to produce a Sustained Virologic Response or SVR. This is when the Hepatitis C virus isn’t present in blood six months after completing a course of treatment.

Harvoni: New Hope for HCV Treatment

Harvoni is a once daily pill that was approved for treating HCV genotype 1 in late 2014. It’s a combination of the drugs ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (which we’ll touch on below).

hcv symptoms

Harvoni works by attacking the Hep C virus itself, rather than boosting your immune system’s ability to fight off infection (how Interferon and Ribavirin works).

Harvoni treatment is usually a twelve-week course of therapy. During this time, patients take the pill once a day. Its side effects are said to be mild and consist of headache and nausea.

Clinical trials have shown Harvoni to be upwards of 95% effective in eliciting a SVR.

The only drawback to using Harvoni as a HCV treatment is its cost. A twelve-week course of therapy is approximately $95,000. For this reason, insurance companies are often wary of approving patients.

Sofosbuvir: Polymerase Inhibitors as HCV Treatment

In late 2013, sofosbuvir was approved to treat HCV genotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4. It’s a polymerase inhibitor, which means it belongs to a family of drugs that actively block HCV proteins from replicating.

Sofosbuvir can be used with and without Interferon and Ribavirin. The specific combination depends on which HCV genotype a patient has.

For example, those suffering from genotypes 1 and 4 must take sofosbuvir, Interferon, and Ribavirin. However, those with HCV genotypes 2 and 3 can take only sofosbuvir and Ribavirin.

The latter combination cuts down on many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with HCV treatment.

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Simeprevir: Protease Inhibitors as HCV Treatment

Also in late 2013, simeprevir was approved for treating HCV genotype 1. Since its introduction to the pharmaceutical market, it’s been used as an off-label treatment for HCV genotype 4.

Simeprevir belongs to a family of drugs known as protease inhibitors. These are similar to polymerase inhibitors and block proteins in HCV from replicating. This means that the Hep C virus can’t create new versions of itself.

Simeprevir, unlike Harvoni and sofosbuvir, must be used in combination with Interferon treatment. It’s used as a sort of boost for Interferon, shortening the duration of treatment and increasing SVR rates.

This is accomplished through keeping the virus from replicating, while Interferon and Ribavirin “beat it up.” Think of one person attempting to fight three. That’s what happens to HCV while taking simeprevir, Interferon, and Ribavirin.

Interferon & Ribavirin: The Old HCV Treatment

Interferon and Ribavirin are the most well known forms of HCV treatment. They’ve been around since the 1980’s and are approved to treat all genotypes of Hepatitis C. In fact, until 2011, they were the only medical form of HCV treatment available.

interferon hcv treatment

Interferon is a protein that works by increasing the body’s immune system. This better equips the body to fight HCV.

Ribavirin keeps HCV from replicating. This makes Interferon’s job easier, as it doesn’t have new viral bodies to fight. While sofosbuvir and simeprevir block key Hep C proteins from replicating, thus slowing the spread of the virus, it’s not known how Ribavirin keeps Hep C from replicating.

The combination of Interferon and Ribavirin is approximately 50% effective at producing a SVR. The downside to this course of therapy are the side effects. In fact, many patients report the side effects to be worse than HCV itself.

Common Interferon side effects include: headache, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dizziness, fever, chills, muscle aches, and hair loss.

Homeopathic Remedies for HCV

There are many homoeopathic options available for HCV treatment. It’s worth noting that none of the following are shown to produce a SVR. Rather, they help the body naturally fight and cope with Hepatitis C.

  • Vitamin D
  • Milk Thistle
  • Licorice Root
  • Lactoferrin
  • Schisandra
  • Thymus Extract

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