Coping With Hepatitis C

Like most viruses, there is no cure for hepatitis C. Four million Americans carry the virus that attacks the liver, but simple lifestyle changes can prevent hepatitis C from becoming deadly.

John Carrano enjoys a night with his family. However, he says life hasn’t always been fun and games. Three years ago, his nine-year-old daughter, Lauren, died of leukemia. That’s when John discovered his own health problem.

John explains, “We had all gone in to be tested to see if we would match to give her our blood, and when our results came back, they told me they had found hepatitis in my blood.”

Hepatitis C attacks the liver. The most immediate symptom is fatigue. Those with the virus are also prone to develop arthritis. Many patients take over-the-counter painkillers for relief.

Hepatologist Tom Riley, M.D., of the Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania, specializes in liver disease. After researching some over-the-counter drugs, he now recommends hepatitis C patients treat pain with Tylenol, a drug they were once told to avoid.

“Tylenol turns out to be the safest drug for patients with hepatitis C that have pain complaints or headache,” says Dr. Riley.

However, he says hepatitis C patients should not take medications containing ibuprofen or aspirin.

Dr. Riley says, “They commonly take these drugs over-the-counter not knowing that they may be injuring their liver while doing so.”

Patients should also avoid alcohol. Dr. Riley suggests taking multi-vitamins, but only those without iron to again protect the liver. Moreover he recommends a low-fat diet.

John is taking Dr. Riley’s advice seriously. He says, “Life’s too short.” Furthermore, the death of Lauren taught him and his family to be survivors.

Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through blood transfusions, I.V. drug use and contaminated tattoo needles. John believes he got the virus during a blood transfusion in 1975 following a serious car accident.

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