This section contains more detail about treatments for hepatitis C.
In this page:
Current treatments for hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is curable. 97% of people who receive treatment for hepatitis C make a full recovery.
There are several different drug treatments for hepatitis C. The treatment your specialist care team recommend will depend upon how long you have had the virus, your health, your wishes and the genotype (variation) of the virus.
After you have been diagnosed
There are two stages of hepatitis C:
- Acute hepatitis C – diagnosed within the first six months of the infection
- Chronic hepatitis C – diagnosed after the first six months of the infection
If you have been diagnosed with acute hepatitis C, your specialist care team may recommend waiting to see whether your body is able to clear the infection naturally.
Around 1 in 5 people with acute hepatitis C are able to clear the infection this way.
If your specialist care team have suggested taking this approach, you should have a blood test a few months after you have been diagnosed to see whether your body has cleared the virus on its own.
If this has not worked, you should start a course of treatment.
Hepatitis C can be treated with a course of one or more medicines that stop the virus from multiplying inside the body. When the virus is unable to make copies of itself, it will eventually die. This type of medication is called direct acting antivirals (DAA).
Drug treatment for hepatitis C is taken in tablet form, typically for between 8 to 12 weeks.
Your treatment plan
Treatment plans may vary depending on your personal circumstances or which part of the UK you live in.
Once you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you should be referred to a specialist centre.
A specialist care team – made up of doctors, nurses and pharmacists – will help to oversee your care and to talk about which course of treatment is best for you.
At the start of your treatment plan, your specialist care team will assess the health of your liver. This will include blood tests and a FibroScan. This is a simple, painless and non-invasive procedure which will help assess whether there is any scarring or further damage to your liver.
If there is damage to your liver, this might affect which medication your specialist care team decide to use in your treatment.
Ahead of the start of your treatment, you should be offered medication counselling. This is when a healthcare professional speaks to you about the medicines you have been prescribed. This is a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about the treatment.
Treatment for hepatitis C is simple. It usually involves taking tablets daily for 8 to 12 weeks.
When you are receiving treatment for hepatitis C, you might be asked to attend medical appointments to monitor your health and to see if the treatment is working. You should also contact your specialist care team if you are concerned about the treatment or notice any adverse side effects.
To make sure that treatment is effective, it is really important that you complete your course of medication, even if you start to feel better before your treatment is over. It is also important that you attend all your medical appointments.
At the end of your treatment, you may have a blood test to measure the level of virus in your body. This will be followed by a second blood test 12 weeks after treatment has finished to test for cure.
If both tests show no sign of the virus, this means treatment has been successful.
Lifestyle changes during treatment
It is really important that you take good care of your health while you are receiving treatment for hepatitis C.
By taking care of yourself you can improve the chances of the treatment being effective and can prevent further damage being done to your liver.
You should consider:
- stopping or reducing your use of alcohol and other drugs
- sticking to a healthy diet
- doing regular exercise
- quitting smoking
- making sure you are vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- using protection during sex to prevent pregnancy or passing the virus on to another person
You might need help making some of these changes – especially if you want to stop or reduce your use of alcohol or other drugs.
Speak to your GP or specialist care team about how to do this safely or find organisations that can help on our Other helpful organisations page.
If you are using alcohol or other drugs, you can still get treatment for hepatitis C.
Success rate of treatment
97% of people who complete treatment for hepatitis C are cured of the virus.
A small number of people may find that their treatment does not work. If this is the case, your specialist care team will advise you to try another medicine.
Side effects of treatment
Most people report very few side effects during their hepatitis C treatment.
At the start of your treatment, you may feel nauseous (sick), experience fatigue (feeling tired), or have some trouble sleeping, but this usually goes away quickly.
If you have any problems with your medicines, speak to your specialist care team straight away.
A pharmacist, nurse or doctor can make suggestions if you are feeling any discomfort or have any concerns.
Treatment during pregnancy
It is not known if current treatments for hepatitis C are safe for pregnant women.
It is important not to become pregnant while you are undergoing hepatitis C as the medicines could harm the unborn baby and your treatment could become disrupted.
If you are of childbearing age and are sexually active, the NHS recommends that you use two forms of contraception while on treatment, and for six months after treatment has ended.
If you are already pregnant, you must delay treatment for hepatitis C until after the baby is born.
Hepatitis C has not been found to cause problems during pregnancy.
Transmission of the hepatitis C virus from a mother to her unborn child is uncommon. 5 in every 100 babies born to mothers who have hepatitis C – will get the infection.
Treatment with co-existing conditions
It is possible to be treated for hepatitis C whilst you are taking medication for other conditions.
Make sure you speak to your specialist care team about your known conditions and any medication you are taking, including over-the-counter or alternative medicines, as this could affect your treatment plan.
If you already have cirrhosis, there is still a good chance that you can be cured of the hepatitis C infection via treatment.
Being cured from the virus can help to slow down further damage and may reduce liver inflammation.
If your cirrhosis is very advanced, a liver transplant might be an option for you.
It is possible to treat both hepatitis C and HIV at the same time.
Research has shown that people with HIV are just as likely to be cured from the hepatitis C virus following treatment as those who do not have HIV.
Speak to your doctor about the best course of treatment for you.
Unlike other viruses, having hepatitis C once does not protect you from future infections.
You can get hepatitis C again if blood infected with the virus enters your bloodstream.
After you complete your treatment, you should replace or sterilise any personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors, or any other item that can cut or graze the skin. There is a very small chance of becoming reinfected with hepatitis C from your dried blood.
However, it is much more likely that you will be reinfected with hepatitis C if you return to higher risk activities such as sharing the equipment used to take drugs.
Find out more about higher risk activities on our Risks and causes page.
Remember that it is extremely unlikely the hepatitis C virus will return without you being reinfected via blood-to-blood contact with someone who is carrying the virus. Recurrence is when a virus naturally comes back without reinfection. Hepatitis C recurrence only happens in less than 1% of people.