The hepatitis C virus causes chronic liver disease or cirrhosis that can even lead to serious liver damage. The virus is known to spread through an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids. It causes a few symptoms which are not very evident at first, hence, most people would not know if they are affected by hepatitis C disease.

There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus, or HCV, with type 1 being the most common form. Leading gastroenterologists suggest that no type of HCV is more serious than the other, but they do respond differently to Chronic Hepatitis C treatment.

The hepatitis C virus affects people in different ways and also has several stages such as incubation period, acute hepatitis C, chronic hepatitis C, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

If an individual is suffering from hepatitis C, they may show its most common symptoms like dark urine, clay-colored faeces, fever, fatigue, joint pain, jaundice, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and vomiting. These symptoms continue for 2 to 12 weeks.

As far as Chronic Hepatitis C treatment is considered, there is no recommended treatment for patients who have acute hepatitis C. However, if the condition turns into a chronic hepatitis C infection, several medications like ribavirin, interferon, and peginterferon can be used as the main treatment.

On the other hand, there are hepatitis C patients with sustained virological response or SVR. Sustained virological response means that the hepatitis C virus is not detected in the blood during treatment. When the virus continues to be undetectable for 12 weeks or more after Chronic Hepatitis C treatment completion, a “sustained” virologic response or SVR has been achieved.

So the important question is how to manage patients who have achieved sustained virologic response or SVR for hepatitis C virus infection?

In fact, the virus can return even after an SVR, but the chances are too low. Studies have shown that the virus tends to return in less than 1% of patients who have an SVR. In some cases, the virus returns as a result of re-infection (that is, new infection from exposure to someone else who is infected with hepatitis C).

Even after Chronic Hepatitis C treatment, patients who have achieved SVR have no guarantee that the liver will completely heal from existing scarring or damage. Patients may still face liver-related complications if they have advanced liver scarring or cirrhosis.

As clinicians are working towards identifying and treating each HCV-infected person, the importance of effective management after cure must not be neglected. For successful management of hepatitis C patients post SVR, there must be 2 goals – to prevent reinfection and to prevent and treat complications of liver diseases.

Get more detailed insight on other ways to manage Chronic Hepatitis C in patients – Click here to know more

Dr. Akash Shukla, Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist at Global Hospital and Professor of Gastroenterology at Sion Hospital.