Coping With Hepatitis C Fatigue


Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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Fatigue is the most common symptom of hepatitis C. It can also be the most devastating. Some people experience only minor fatigue. But for others, it can be severe and affect every part of their life. There are several steps you can take to regain some energy and feel less tired.

Avoiding Fatigue Triggers

Part of coping with fatigue is learning what triggers to avoid. These factors can worsen fatigue:

  • Alcohol
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Lack of exercise
  • Recreational drugs
  • Too much caffeine

Taking Steps to Regain Energy

Avoiding the things that can worsen your fatigue is one way to cope. You can also be proactive. Try these ideas to boost your energy level:

Get gentle exercise. Research shows that being more active is linked with reduced fatigue and greater body strength. It can also improve your memory, your mood and your self-esteem. A good way to work exercise into your daily routine is to take a 2- to 3-minute walk a few times a day. Gradually work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Getting more activity during the day can also help you sleep better at night.

Drink plenty of fluids. Being dehydrated can make you tired. During hepatitis C treatment, most people should drink at least 8 cups of water a day. Ask your doctor if that amount is right for you. A beverage with caffeine is fine in the morning. But, it's a good idea to limit caffeine as the day goes on, especially as it gets closer to bedtime.

Get enough quality sleep. Poor sleep can make you feel tired all day long. Establish a healthy sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every night and avoid stimulating activity for at least two hours before bedtime. Let your doctor know if you often have trouble sleeping. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that could help you sleep.

Know when to rest. Taking a short nap during the day can keep you from feeling exhausted by the end of the day. If you can fit in a nap, try not to sleep for more than 20 minutes. It's also a good idea to nap early in the day. Napping for too long or late in the day can make you feel more tired and can make it harder to sleep at night.

Pace yourself at work. If possible, try to cut back on your workload. Look into the possibility of a flexible work schedule, job-sharing, or telecommuting.

Eat a healthy diet. You can help manage your fatigue by eating a well-balanced diet. Rather than having two or three big meals, eat more frequent small meals throughout the day. Limit foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Make your diet rich in low-fat, high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Plan your activities carefully. Take time to do the things you enjoy. Staying active can distract you from fatigue and other symptoms. Still, it's important to avoid doing too much at once. Give yourself time to rest between tiring activities.

Adjust your treatment schedule. Fatigue is a common side effect of hepatitis C treatment. If you're getting interferon injections, pay attention to how you feel afterward. If your fatigue gets worse one or two days later, talk to your doctor about adjusting when you receive treatment. It also may help to take your medication at bedtime or on the weekend. If fatigue persists, ask your doctor about newer antiviral treatments for hepatitis C.

Consider Other Health Issues

It's important to let your doctor know if you are experiencing extreme tiredness or exhaustion. Fatigue could be a warning sign for some other health condition that needs treatment. Remember, treatment for the virus can increase your risk for other health issues. These include anemia and thyroid disease.

Feeling tired all of the time could also be a sign of depression. It is normal to feel sad about being diagnosed with hepatitis C. But, if those feelings do not get better in time or get worse, you could be depressed. Other warning signs of depression include:

  • Sleeping more or less than usual

  • Moving slower than usual
  • Having trouble sitting still
  • Loss of interest in things that you enjoy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Thinking about death or giving up

If you think you might be depressed, it's important to talk to a doctor or therapist. There are medications to treat depression. Lifestyle changes and support groups could help, too.

Key Takeaways

  • Coping with fatigue is a big part of managing hepatitis C, and certain lifestyle steps will help.
  • Find the right balance of re-energizing activity and getting the proper rest, which may include taking a short nap during the day.
  • Check with your doctor to make sure you don't have other health issues that could be causing your fatigue.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 31, 2016

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Medical References

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  2. Viral Hepatitis: Mental Health: Entire Lesson. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
  3. Managing Side Effects of Hepatitis C Treatment. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
  4. Deciding on a treatment plan: Hepatitis C. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
  5. Living with Hepatitis. Hepatitis Foundation International.
  6. Sarkar S, et al. Fatigue Before, During and After Antiviral Therapy of Chronic Hepatitis C: Results from the Virahep-C Study. J Hepatol. J Hepatol. 2012 Nov; 57(5): 946–952.