8 Common Hepatitis C Treatment Side Effects and How to Manage Them

By

Denise Mann, MS

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Thanks to an influx of effective antiviral therapies, hepatitis C treatment looks a lot different today than it did just a few years ago. This contagious liver disease is considered curable as long as you stay your treatment course. That said, all medications do have some side effects. Knowing how to manage any issues that arise along the way can help you treat and beat hepatitis C.

Most of the side effects mentioned here can occur with both older and newer hepatitis C treatments. They do, however, tend to differ in terms of degree, with the newer therapies being less likely to cause severe side effects. Make sure your doctor knows about all of your medications. Hepatitis C medications can adversely interact with many other medications. In addition, some hepatitis C side effects can be related to the symptoms of disease as well as the medications used to treat it.

In the last few years, a lot has changed in the way we treat hepatitis C. Do you know all the facts?

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 23, 2015

Learn about 8 common side effects associated with all available hepatitis C treatments and the expert-approved tips on how to troubleshoot them.

Side Effect: Fatigue/Trouble Sleeping

What to do:

  • Rest whenever you can.

  • Engage in regular exercise and eat a healthy well-balanced diet.

  • Eliminate caffeine after 2 PM.

  • Set and stick to strict wake-up and bed times.

  • Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription sleeping aids.

  • Don’t use alcohol as a sleeping aid as it may help you fall asleep but can prevent you from staying asleep as well as further stress your liver.

Side effect: Headache

What to do:

  • Talk your doctor about the best way to treat your headaches. Acetaminophen, which is found in hundreds of headache remedies, can be dangerous to your already taxed liver if not taken properly.

  • Drink 8, 8-oz glasses of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration-related headache.

Side Effect: Diarrhea/Nausea/Vomiting or Poor Appetite

 What to do:

  • Eat small meals throughout the day.

  • Consider the bland Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast (BRAT) diet that is often recommended to pregnant women who have morning sickness.

  • Drink ginger tea or ginger ale to see if it settles your stomach.

  • Some hepatitis C drugs may be better taken with food. Make sure you are clear on when and how to take yours to minimize nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Side Effect: Fever or Flu-like Symptoms

What to do:

  • Ask your doctor what type of fever or pain relief product you should take to stave off these symptoms. Avoid the use of acetaminophen because it could be toxic to your compromised liver.

  • Try a cool sponge bath.

If fever or flu-like symptoms are related to injectable hepatitis C medications, ask your doctor if you should inject before bed instead so you sleep through these symptoms.

Side Effect: Dry Mouth /Mouth Sores

What to do:

  • Brush and floss frequently.

  • Rinse your mouth after every meal.

  • Skip mouthwash with alcohol, which can be drying.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Suck on ice chips.

  • If you develop mouth sores, see your doctor or dentist about treatments.

Side Effect: Injection-Site Reactions

What to do:

  • Don’t use the same site all the time.

  • Apply ice to the injection site.

  • Discuss your reactions with your doctor for other tips.

Side Effect: Hair Loss

What to do:

  • Don’t pull, braid or over aggressively style or brush hair.

  • Use a wide-toothed comb. 

  • Choose mild shampoo and conditioners.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 1, 2015

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View Sources

Medical References

  1. Hepatitis C Treatment Resources. American College of Gastroenterology. http://gi.org/acg-institute/hepatitis-c-treatment-resources/
  2. Managing Side Effects. American Liver Foundation. http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/treatment/while-on-treatment/managing-side-effects/
  3. Acetaminophen Overview. National Library of Medicine. http://livertox.nih.gov/Acetaminophen.htm#overview
  4. Hepatitis C Treatment Side Effects Management Chart. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/products/patient/side-effects-chart.asp
  5. New hepatitis C drugs offer hope for effective treatment, fewer side effects. UT Southwestern Medical Center. http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/newsroom/news-releases/year-2014/march/hepatitis-lee.html

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