Before you begin treatment with these medications, your healthcare provider will do a few blood tests. These tests will help your provider know the levels of certain substances in your blood. Because the medications for hepatitis C do have side effects, you will continue to have blood tests done throughout your treatment. If your blood test levels change too much, your treatment program may need to be modified.
Within several months of beginning the combination therapy, your healthcare provider will be able to tell you whether or not the treatment is working. This is done with the viral RNA blood test. You may remember that this same test was used earlier to tell whether or not you had the hepatitis C virus in your body, and how much of it was there. If the treatment IS working, the amount of virus RNA in your blood will have gone down. But, if it's not working, the amount of RNA that was originally found will stay the same, or even increase.
During and even after treatment, it's important that patients with hepatitis C stay as healthy as they can, and avoid anything that could hurt their liver. To do this, you should:
* Try to follow a good food plan every day,
* Keep your weight in a healthy range,
* Exercise regularly,
* Stop the use of tobacco products, and most importantly,
* Not drink alcohol.
Alcohol poisons your liver and can cause even more damage to the cells that are already fighting the hepatitis C virus. Drinking alcohol increases your chances of developing severe liver damage and cirrhosis. The exact amount of alcohol that will harm the liver isn't known. So, it's generally recommended that people with HCV avoid alcohol completely.
Also, people with hepatitis C are more likely to get a more dangerous condition called "acute liver failure." To help reduce this risk, people with hepatitis C should also be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.