Hep C can be asymptomatic for many years, though the disease may be silently progressing. The most common symptoms include: extreme fatigue, pain, anxiety or depression, and digestive problems. Here are a few tips to help you manage symptoms.
There’s tired, and then there’s extreme fatigue, a common symptom of Hep C. Liver damage can cause the body to struggle, and can cause stress which is tiring. Some ways you can reduce fatigue:
- Get lots of sleep! Monitor your sleep quality using an App like Sleep Cycle.
- Build a healthy body. Eat nutritiously and get lots of exercise.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol damages the liver and increases fatigue.
- Drink coffee. It can make you more alert, and has been shown to improve liver health.
- Talk to your doctor about medications to help you overcome fatigue safely.
Pain in the joints, bones or all over the body is common in people with Hep C. Pain can be exhausting, and can cause irritability, depression and generally lower quality of life.
Increase your pleasure to reduce your pain! Do something you love to flood your body with blissful endorphins, and distract yourself from chronic pain.
- Take hot baths with Epsom salts, or get a massage.
- Try breathing exercises and meditation.
- Exercise, dance, yoga or tai-chi can reduce pain.
Some over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications are addictive or damaging to the liver. Talk to your doctor about treating pain safely.
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin. People with Hep C have often felt both at different points in time. The Hep C virus can affect the brain, and living with an infectious and potentially fatal disease can be stressful. So what can you do?
- Share your feelings gradually with someone you trust: a friend, family member, support group or a therapist.
- Find something to do that you love. It can be simple - like watching a funny show on TV, having sex, or dancing to a favorite song. This can cause the release of endorphins in your body that can improve your feelings of wellness.
- Exercise. It can cause a natural high!
- Recognize when you need help. If your emotions, thoughts or feelings are getting in the way of your day-to-day tasks, relationships, or life goals, speaking to a professional may help.
The liver is part of the digestive system. When the liver is struggling or damaged, digestive programs can occur, including nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and many more. Here are some ways you can help your digestion:
- Eat a nutritious diet high in natural fibers like grains and vegetables.
- Avoid, processed foods, alcohol, trans-fat, salt, hot spices and sugar.
- Ginger has been found to reduce nausea.
- Talk to your doctor about ways to overcome digestive problems safely.
Hep C can be treated and cured, . When you are cured, symptoms can vanish and liver damage can sometimes reverse.
Nirah is a clinical social worker and public health professional who has been raising awareness about hepatitis C and liver health in NYC since 2007. She organizes the Hep Free NYC network in NYC. Twitter: @HepFreeNYC
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Fatigue in liver disease: Pathophysiology and clinical management. Can J Gastroenterol. 2006.
Impact of coffee on liver diseases: a systematic review. Liver International, 2014.