Hepatitis C

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General recommendations for living with hepatitis C include:

Discontinue alcohol use. Besides posing the risk of further damaging a liver already compromised by the infection, alcohol seems to be an independent contributing factor in the development of liver cancer among hepatitis C patients. Patients who seek referral for liver transplantation must be clean of all alcohol and illicit drugs for a significant period, usually six months.

Maintain a normal weight. Patients close to their ideal weight have greater success with medical therapy. The course of the illness also seems to be more benign, compared with patients who are obese.

Vaccinate against hepatitis A and B. Vaccines will prevent coinfection with another hepatitis when the immune system is weak. A person who has cirrhosis would be advised to have regular flu shots, Pneumovax, and tetanus boosters as well.

Practice safe sex. Regular sexual partners can become infected, though not easily.

Protect pregnant women, infants, and children. If you are pregnant, make sure you are screened for hepatitis C, which can be transmitted to your baby at birth. You may be infected and have no symptoms.

Prevent blood exchanges. Keep all cuts covered, and avoid sharing any sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, earrings, or any household item where small amounts of blood can be exchanged.

Talk to your physician. Seek a green light before taking any over-the-counter medication, supplements, or herbal remedies. Most drugs and herbal supplements are metabolized in the liver, so they can damage a liver already inflamed with hepatitis C. Some nonprescription medications, such as pain relievers like acetaminophen, have been shown to be toxic to the liver, even among those who are free of the hepatitis C virus. If you develop chronic hepatitis C infection that is not eliminated with treatment, be sure to have regular screenings for liver cancer and other serious complications.

Reduce stress. It's important to talk to friends and loved ones about the difficulties the illness is causing you, particularly if the side effects of treatment are difficult to tolerate. Consider using other stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and relaxation exercise.

Last reviewed on 7/21/09

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