New treatments can clear hepatitis C at every stage. Of course, the disease causes damage over time, so it's best treat it as early as possible.
At UC San Diego Health, we treat hepatitis C with antiviral medications. The type of medications you receive is based on the strain (genotype) of hepatitis C you have. Treatment length depends on severity of condition and treatment response, and can range anywhere from 8 to 24 weeks.
Antiviral medications stop the enzymes produced by hepatitis C. This helps to:
- Prevent and slow the development of scarring in the liver.
- Reduce the chances of developing liver cancer and cirrhosis.
- Clear the virus from the bloodstream.
UC San Diego is a leader in the development of new, more effective treatments for hepatitis C.
See what treatments are currently being studied.
In the past, the only treatment for hepatitis C was a combination of interferon alfa (self-injected) and ribavirin (pill). This regimen was often poorly tolerated and had suboptimal cure rates.
Depending on your genotype, new interferon-free treatments are available with cure rates over 90 percent.
Antiviral drugs used to treat hepatitis C:
Hepatitis C Genotype
One of the factors that affects the type of treatment you receive for your hepatitis C is your genotype.
There are 6 different genotypes:
Genotype 1: This type of hepatitis C is found worldwide. It accounts for roughly 70% of all hepatitis C cases in U.S.
Genotypes 2, 3: This type of hepatitis C is found worldwide. It accounts for roughly 30% of all hepatitis C cases in U.S.
Genotype 4: This type of hepatitis C is most common in Africa and the Middle East.
Genotype 5: This type of hepatitis C is most common in South Africa.
Genotype 6: This type of hepatitis C is most common in Southeast Asia.
Hepatitis C genotypes 1, 2 and 3 are the most common genotypes found in the U.S.
In the past, treatment with interferon and ribavirin was most effective in patients with genotype 2 and 3. But thanks to the development of new direct antiviral drugs or DAAs, treatment success has increased dramatically for all genotypes.
Factors That Affect Treatment
In addition to genotype, several factors impact the success of treatment and should be considered.
Treatment success is more likely if you:
- Are young
- Have a low amount of virus in your blood (known as hepatitis C viral load)
- Have moderate liver scarring
- Have a shorter length of time with infection (before fibrosis has occurred)
Lifestyle factors also play a role. Make sure to:
- Avoid alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthfully
Your level of hepatitis C virus will be periodically checked through the course of treatment. Expect to see your provider regularly for evaluation while on antiviral medications to monitor for side effects and response to treatment.
Untreated hepatitis C can eventually develop into end-stage liver disease (decompensated cirrhosis), in which case liver transplantation is necessary.
does not cure hepatitis C.
If your infection is still present at the time of transplant, the new liver will become infected. However, treatment can be started after you recover from surgery.
More about our Liver Transplant Program