Is There A Cure For Hepatitis C?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation or swelling of the liver. Since it is typically spread through contact with contaminated blood, hepatitis C is often transmitted by sharing needles or syringes with someone who is infected with the virus. It is also spread from sharing personal items that may come into contact with infected blood, from mother to baby during childbirth, from unregulated tattoos and piercings, and rarely, from health care exposure. While uncommon, it can also be transmitted through unprotected sex, especially among men who have sex with men.

Since it is not uncommon for newly infected patients to show no symptoms at first, many people with hepatitis C don't know that they've even contracted the virus until symptoms begin to develop anywhere between 2 and 12 weeks after exposure. Some people don't develop symptoms at all, but for those who do, common short-term symptoms include jaundice, upset stomach, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, joint pain, dark-colored urine, fatigue, and light-colored stool. If left untreated, hepatitis C can become a lifelong infection and lead to serious health problems, like liver damage and cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.

Hepatitis C is curable

While there is no vaccine to prevent infection, hepatitis C is now considered a curable disease. In fact, antiviral drugs can cure the virus in a matter of weeks (via Medical News Today). Thanks to improvements in treatments, hepatitis C has become a much more manageable disease.

While past treatments used to involve interferons, doctors now use direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) to treat and cure the virus. Today, hepatitis C treatments typically last anywhere between 8 to 12 weeks and have a cure rate of over 90%. However, the virus isn't considered cured until it remains undetectable in your blood for at least 12 weeks.

This is known as a sustained virologic response (SVR). Having an SVR means that the virus has been cured and will not return. Only 1% of people experience recurrent infections after an SVR. However, the key to successful treatment is early intervention. Left untreated, most people who contract hepatitis C develop chronic infections. That's why it's important to get tested if you've been exposed to the virus.