Hepatitis C is a condition in which a person becomes infected with the hepatitis C virus. The exposure to the virus generally occurs due to contact with blood that is infected with the virus. Common examples of virus transmission include sharing needles used for tattoos or illegal drug use, blood transfusions with infected blood, organ transplants, sexual contact, and childbirth. Liver damage can occur if the infection becomes severe and is left untreated. Although there is no proven cure, since the condition is caused by a virus, certain medications may help the body fight the virus and prevent liver damage.
One of the common hepatitis C drugs is known as peginterferon. Peginterferon is a type of protein that is naturally produced by the body. This protein may help the body fight against foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses like the hepatitis C virus. Less severe forms of the infection with the virus tend to respond most successfully to peginterferon treatment.
More serious infections are generally treated with a mixture of hepatitis C drugs. This form of treatment is referred to as combination antiviral therapy. It involves taking peginterferon, in addition to a drug known as ribavirin. Ribavirin is an antiviral medication that may fight the hepatitis C virus, although it has not been conclusively how it works. On its own, ribavirin is not effective at fighting viruses, and only begins to work when combined with peginterferon.
These antiviral hepatitis C drugs may not be safe for many people with the condition who also have other underlying health conditions. People with depression or other mental health conditions are generally not recommended to take these antiviral medications because they make their mental conditions worse. The active ingredients in hepatitis C drugs may also potentially harm fetuses, so women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, as well as men who plan to father a child, are usually not permitted to take the medication. People with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or lupus, may also not be recommended to take the medications because it may aggravate the underlying autoimmune disorder.
Certain side effects can occur with usage of hepatitis C drugs. They have been found to affect the functioning of the thyroid, a gland responsible for performing a variety of metabolic roles in the body. Other side effects include headaches, fatigue, fever, nausea, and depression. Although these side effects are not generally considered life-threatening and doctors may not recommend immediate medical attention, the effects may be monitored to make sure they don’t worsen.