A Hepatitis C diagnosis almost always brings a flood of questions. Will I get sick? Where do I find a doctor? Can I be cured?
Around 95% of people who receive treatment for Hep C are cured, meaning the virus is not detected in their blood three months after receiving treatment. Many people do not experience symptoms until years after they contracted the virus. In fact, over half of the people who contract Hep C never experience any health problems from it.
We’ve listed resources below for locating doctors that treat Hep C. Testing for the Hepatitis C virus initially consists of an antibody test and a viral load test.
The Antibody Test
The antibody test shows only whether you have ever been exposed to the Hep C virus. A positive antibody test does not necessarily mean you still have the virus in your system. Up to 25% of people who have been exposed clear the virus on their own. When this happens, it is called “Acute Hep C.”
The Viral Load Test
The Viral Load Test determines if the virus is still in your system and how much of it remains. It’s used to confirm your diagnosis and monitor your progress in treatment.
Most of the time, Hepatitis C will become chronic. This means the virus stays in the blood beyond the six-month “acute” phase, and Hep C becomes a serious illness that, without treatment, can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years.
Up to 85% of people diagnosed with Hep C develop a chronic infection.
The sooner Hep C is treated, the better your chances are for being cured.
Getting Treatment for Hep C
Most primary care physicians or family doctors don’t treat Hepatitis C. You should see a specialist. The types of doctors who treat Hep C are:
- Hepatologists: Doctors who treat liver disease
- Gastroenterologists: Doctors who specialize in stomach and intestinal diseases
- Infectious disease doctors
- Nurse Practitioners and Physician’s Assistants who treat people with liver disease
You can contact your primary care physician for advice on which doctor to see. You can also call your medical insurance company for recommendations.
Tools for Locating Hep C Treatment Providers
The website Hep C Hope offers a tool where you can enter your zip code to locate a Hep C specialist nearby. (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)
The website HepC.com also offers a tool where you can enter your zip code to locate a nearby doctor who treats Hep C.
Hep C Treatment Options
The great news is that treatment is now shorter and more effective than ever before and causes fewer side effects.
HCV Advocate has a blog that lists medications and treatment options available. There you can read about the different Hep C medications such as Zepatier, Viekira Pak, Technivie, Sovaldi, Olysio, Harvoni, Epclusa, and Daklinza.
When deciding your treatment plans, medical providers consider factors such as:
- How much of the virus is in your body
- The genotype (strain) of Hep C you have
- Whether you have liver damage and to what extent
- Other health issues you have
- Your response to previous Hep C treatment, if any
You Can’t Be Cured if You Never Get Screened
Hepatitis C is all too common in our communities. The heroin epidemic has caused Hepatitis C transmission rates to skyrocket in the area in recent years, with a 43% increase in 2015. Nearly 75% of our clients report they are positive for Hep C.
If you’re at risk, please get tested. We offer free screening for Hepatitis C and HIV on a regular schedule. Please stop in and take steps toward better health because you deserve to live a happy, healthy life.
Other Helpful Resources
A helpful resource is First Steps with Hepatitis C for the Newly Diagnosed by HCV Advocate. It provides answers to frequently asked questions, advice for finding and maximizing your medical care, and a host of other helpful information.
Websites cited here with more helpful information about Hepatitis C include: