There is no cure for hepatitis C infection, but medication is available that may clear the virus from the bloodstream and help prevent liver disease while taking the treatment. Some health care providers don't recommend treating the virus with medication unless there is significant liver damage or elevated levels of liver enzyme in your blood because side effects of the treatment can be severe, but some health care providers are favorable to a more aggressive approach and recommend fighting the virus with medication even if there is no significant liver damage and livery enzyme levels are not elevated.
The standard course of treatment for hepatitis C is weekly injections of a drug called pegylated interferon alfa combined with twice-daily oral doses of ribavirin (Rebetol), which is a broad-spectrum antiviral agent. This combination may help clear the virus from the bloodstream in up to half of people with genotype 1, which is the most common genotype found in the U.S., and up to 80 percent of those with genotypes 2 and 3. Side effects from interferon include severe flu-like symptoms, irritability, depression, concentration and memory problems and insomnia. Ribavirin can cause a low red blood cell count (anemia), gout and birth defects. Both drugs can cause skin irritation and extreme fatigue. Dosage and length of treatment vary between each case.
The best treatment for people with end-stage liver disease is liver transplantation.
All patients with hepatitis C should be immunized against hepatitis A and B. No vaccine for hepatitis C has been developed, although researchers hope to find a medication that will inhibit the growth of the virus and prevent long-term complications, such as cirrhosis and cancer, from developing.