Living With Hepatitis C Virus

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Living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection requires some lifestyle adjustments. New treatments have made it possible to avoid many of the complications of HCV, but you still need to avoid certain food and medications, and you may need to deal with the emotional, social, and financial impact of the illness. 

Emotional

HCV results in an emotional and psychological burden and has been associated with depression. Your own anxiety about infecting other people can also add to your emotional burden of living with the infection. There are several ways to cope with emotional aspects of HCV. 

  • Social Stigma: There is a social stigma around HCV as well as discrimination against people who have HCV. This is largely because the disease is contagious and because it can be acquired through drug use and unprotected sex. It is completely up to you whether you want to share information about your diagnosis with people you know. Some people with HCV may feel comfortable sharing this information, while others may not. 
  • Protecting Others: While you are entitled to your own privacy, you do have a responsibility to protect others from your infection by informing sexual partners and anyone who could come into contact with your blood. Maintaining honesty and integrity in this area is an important way to care for your emotional response to the condition as well. 
  • Self-Perception: A recent study showed that how people living with HCV perceive the infection has an impact on the approach to treatments. A better understanding of the illness improves a person's ability to understand treatment options and to make more informed decisions. This means that the more you learn about HCV, the more likely you are to consider all of your treatment options when making a decision. 
  • Depression: Depression has been associated with HCV. The best way to approach depression is to get professional help, as you would for any other symptom. Counseling and medical therapy can help diminish the symptoms of depression for the long term. 

Physical 

If you have HCV, there are a number of precautions you have to take involving the food, drinks, and medications that you use. Liver disease interferes with your metabolism, making some items that could have been safe for you prior to your HCV diagnosis no longer safe. 

If you have HCV, there are a number of medications that you have to avoid, because they are either processed by the liver or can be toxic to the liver. Some guidelines when taking medications include: 

  • Read the labels on all medications, including over-the-counter medications, to ensure that they do not interact with the liver. If a medicine cannot be taken if you have liver disease, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an alternative suggestion. 
  • Do not take higher doses or more frequent doses of any medication. 
  • Do not take medications that are not recommended by your team of physicians.

If you have HCV, the effect on your liver may interfere with your ability to properly metabolize some types of food and drinks. It is important to be aware of these issues and to avoid food that can make you sick due to liver disease. 

  • Alcohol: If you have HCV, alcohol can be dangerous for your body. Even a moderate intake of alcohol can result in toxins that your body cannot handle, can cause progression of liver disease, and can interfere with the treatments used for HCV. 
  • Foods with high-fat content: Fatty foods such as meat, poultry skins, bacon, sausages, and cheese require a healthy liver for normal processing. If you have HCV, these types of foods can make you very sick. 
  • Salty foods: Sodium (salt) can also be harmful if you have HCV. This is mainly because it can contribute to high blood pressure. The most common sources of high sodium are food seasonings, powdered sauces, soup mixes, gravy, meats, peanut butter, and muffins. 
  • Food With High Sugar Content: If you have HCV, you should avoid sugary foods and drinks such as soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened beverages, cookies, candies, brownies, and cake. This is because your liver is also involved with sugar metabolism, and excess sugar can be a problem if you have liver disease. 

    Social 

    Healthy interactions with other people can help in coping with the illness. It is important to maintain social relationships unrelated to your HCV diagnosis. And for some people, seeking out connections from others who have lived with the illness can provide additional guidance and support. 

    • Family and Friends: Maintaining relationships with family and friends remains a central part of healthy living. When you have a contagious illness, the dynamic may change between you and others who may become judgmental, fearful, or aloof. Making choices about healthy relationships is a challenge. You might decide that you want to invest in rebuilding relationships with people who you value, or you may decide that the emotional strain of some relationships is unhealthy for you. 
    • Work: Many people derive self-esteem, not to mention financial sustenance, from working. If you have HCV, you may need to take some time off from your work or school due to illness and treatment, but most people with HCV can remain healthy after taking anti-viral medications. If you choose to work, you might notice, as many people do, that the social aspects of your work setting provides you with healthy interactions with others that allow you to focus on things outside of your own HCV diagnosis. 
    • Support Groups: With many medical conditions, including HCV, support groups provide a place where you can talk about your diagnosis with others who have gone through the same experience. People who have GCV can give you tips and advice. As you learn about how to cope with your illness, you may also be able to provide advice for others. If you want to join a support group, you can ask for direction about where to find a local group at your doctor's office, or you can find support groups through national organizations

      Practical

      The cost of the medications that you may need for treatment of your HCV infection can be quite high. Assistance programs can help with this burden, particularly if the cost is not covered by your health insurance. 

      Fair Pricing Coalition

      The Fair Pricing Coalition (FPC) provides co-pay and patient assistance programs (PAPs) with most hepatitis drug manufacturers. These programs provide assistance to people with HCV who meet eligibility criteria, which is based on household family income. The criteria for inclusion varies by program. 

      Co-pay Programs

      Co-pay programs work by assisting with the insurance co-payment of each individual drug. These programs may be available to you based on your income level. You can check with your health insurance or the company that manufactures your medication for guidance with these programs.  

      PAP Programs

      PAPS may be sponsored by pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the specific rules and qualifications may vary, Usually, qualification is based on household income level. Some PAPs, for example, can assist you if your income is less than 500 percent of the  Federal Poverty Level (FPL). PAPs work by providing low-cost or even no-cost medications if you are qualified based on your income level. FPL amounts currently used for eligibility assessment are available through the Health.gov website.

      The Common PAP Application, an initiative coordinated through the U.S. government to streamline the application process. The completed form will then need to be submitted to each individual pharmaceutical assistance program for processing.

      Application Process

      Some patient assistance organizations can help you with the application process for assistance with payment of medications. The Patient Access Network Foundation and the Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief Program are two organizations that can assist you with the application process.  

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