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Southern Arizona VA Health Care System

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Hepatitis C Treatment Information

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The liver is an organ that is important for processing nutrients, filtering the blood and fighting infections in the body. When the liver has been damaged by a virus, heavy alcohol use, some medications or other toxins, hepatitis may occur.

An estimated 3.2 million Americans are infected with Hepatitis C. Infection rates in the veteran population are 3 times higher than in the general population (Martinello & Ross, 2014). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 75% of people with chronic (long-term) Hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC],2015).

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver from the Hepatitis C virus. Currently, there are six different types (genotypes) of Hepatitis C. It is spread when the blood from someone infected with Hepatitis C enters the body of someone who is not infected. The majority of infections are from sharing needles, syringes or other tools to share drugs. It may also be spread through non-sterile equipment used when getting a tattoo or body piercing. Prior to 1992, Hepatitis C was spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. In more rare cases, it is spread through sexual contact or in infants born to infected mothers. Many people do not know how they became infected with the Hepatitis C virus.

What symptoms may occur?

If symptoms do occur, they generally occur between 2 weeks to 6 months after becoming infected with the Hepatitis C virus.

The symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • fever
  • an upset stomach
  • decreased appetite
  • vomiting
  • dark colored urine
  • joint pain
  • gray colored stool
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes

Many people with Hepatitis C do not experience symptoms until they are in the later stages of the disease, therefore, it is important to get a blood test to make sure you do not have the virus. If you are currently enrolled in the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System, you may have received a letter in the mail encouraging you to be screened. If you have this letter, please take it to the lab at the Tucson campus or any SAVAHCS Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). You may also just tell the lab person you would like to be tested for Hepatitis C and they will draw your blood. If you are not sure if you have been screened, talk to your Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) today!

Our Goals

  • Get rid of the Hepatitis C virus from your body
  • To keep your liver from scarring or at least decrease the amount of scarring
  • Decrease the chance of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer

Appointment Policy

  • Keep your appointments for follow up care. We must see you before we can renew your Hepatitis C medication(s).
  • If you can’t make it to your scheduled appointment, please call (520) 792-1450 extension 2051 to make another appointment.
  • If you miss (no show) two scheduled appointments, we may not be able to continue with your treatment. Keeping your appointment helps increase the chance of treatment success and decrease potential problems.

Labs/Blood Work

  • You do not need to fast for any of your blood work.
  • Getting your blood tested helps us to make sure the medicine is working and your blood levels are safe.
  • We will ask you to get blood drawn on week 4 of therapy, at the end of therapy, and 3 months after completing therapy to see if you are a sustained responder (cured of Hepatitis C).

Your Appointments

  • Follow up appointments are every 4 weeks while on this therapy. We check your blood test results and make sure you are not having any side effects to the medicines.
  • Appointments are either face-to-face in our clinic or on the phone if you are doing well on your medicines.
  • Your medicine is very expensive. We do not send it in the mail. We give you your medicine after each follow up appointment.

 Treatment Length

  • Most patients take the medicine(s) for 12 weeks.
  • Patients with severe liver disease may need longer treatment.

Side Effects/Drug Interactions

  • The main side effects to look out for include fatigue, headache, nausea, and insomnia.
  • Please stay well hydrated with water during this therapy as it can be dehydrating.
  • Take things slow, listen to your body, and do not overexert yourself during this therapy.
  • Before you start any new medications, herbal or supplements, please let us know so we can make sure it does not interfere with the Hepatitis C therapy.
  • Please call us right away if you have any other side effects or symptoms.

Contact Information

  • Nurse Practitioner (520)792-1450 ext. 6188
  • Pharmacist (520)792-1450 ext. 6594
  • Nurse and Hepatitis C Care Coordinator (520)792-1450 ext. 5139

Contact Info

Location

  • Bldg. 80, 2nd Floor

Contact Number(s)

  • 520-792-1450 Ext. 2051
  • 520-792-1450 Ext. 5139

Hours of Operation

  • 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.