Managing your Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis Foundation no longer operates a National Hepatitis C Follow-up Programme as patient services are now managed by regional DHBs (District Health Boards).

Important: While the Foundation no longer operates a Hepatitis C Follow-up Programme, we still operate a Hepatitis B Follow-up Programme.

If you think you have hepatitis C or would like to access treatment please contact your local GP. However if you have any questions about hepatitis C or need someone to talk to you can call our helpline on 0800 30 20 10.

If you live in the Midlands region (BoP, Waikato, Taranaki, Lakes, Tairawhiti) your monitoring and follow-up is now managed by Waikato DHB. If you have any questions about your Fibroscan appointment please call Kathryn on 07 839 8899 ext: 96289.

If you live in the Central region (Capital & Coast, Hutt, Wairarapa, Manawatu, Hawkes Bay) your monitoring and follow-up is now managed by Compass Health. If you have any questions about your Fibroscan appointment please call Sheryl on 027 549 6614 or 04 978 4303..

Please see your doctor (GP) for a referral to a Hepatitis C Programme near you.

Information of GPs: Referrals 

All Fibroscan referrals from GPs should be made through your local health pathway.

  • For referrals in Auckland & Northland please refer to local DHB using Auckland Region Health Pathways (Northern Regional Alliance is the Hepatitis C Programme Coordinator).
  • For referrals in the Midlands region please use BPAC e-referral – ‘Hepatitis C service – Community Service’ for Fibroscan and patient education service and view the pathway of care via the Map of Medicine (Compass Health is the Hepatitis C Programme Coordinator).
  • For referrals in Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North and Whanganui please use the Map of Medicine referral pathway (Compass Health is the Hepatitis C Programme Coordinator).
  • Referrals in Wellington, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa please use the 3 D Health Pathways (Compass Health is the Hepatitis C Programme Coordinator).
  • For the South Island please refer to the local DHB using South Island Health Pathways (South Island Alliance is the Hepatitis C Programme Coordinator).

FibroScan

a560ebfae5ced65fd71d4acb9b17d5ca_f817Having a FibroScan is one of the most important things you can do to assess the health of your liver. A FibroScan is a simple, painless tool that determines if liver damage (fibrosis or cirrhosis) is present by measuring the degree of stiffness in the liver. The FibroScan assessment usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes and the results of the scan can be given immediately after.

You can have a FibroScan if:

  • You have hepatitis B or C.
  • A FibroScan clinic is available in your area. Please contact your GP about where these clinics are held.

If you require a Fibroscan for immigration purposes click here.

Read the article ‘An in-depth look at the FibroScan‘ from issue 11 of Talking Hep C for more information.

Look after your liver – Maintain a healthy lifestyle

You can keep healthy by:

  • Staying within a healthy weight range
  • Avoiding food and beverages containing a lot of fat or sugar
  • Exercising daily
  • Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Getting checked for diabetes and if you have it follow your doctor’s advice.
For more detail please read our information sheet about hepatitis and lifestyle.
You can also read the feature article ‘Living with your liver , in good health or bad‘ from issue 1 of Talking Hep C.

f49296ee48900a1e8cd0bd70fdd73298_f900Drinking less alcohol is the most important lifestyle change you can make. Anyone with hepatitis C is recommended to keep alcohol intake to a minimum to reduce the risk of developing hepatitis-related complications. Regular and heavy alcohol intake will increase liver damage and increase your risk of cirrhosis.

For more information, read the article ‘The cost of alcohol on your liver‘ from issue 10 of Talking Hep C.

Cannabis and other drug use should also be reduced as this can scar your liver.

Also avoid eating fatty foods as they clog your liver and stop it working.

People with hepatitis also need to mindful about taking pain relief medication. Please read the article ‘Pain relief and your liver‘ from issue 12 of Talking Hep C.

This will help you cope better with hepatitis C and will also help avoid other liver problems such as fatty liver disease. Fatty liver is a condition where excess fat builds up inside the cells within the liver. Fatty liver may speed up the progression of scarring in people with chronic hepatitis C.

 

Managing your symptoms

If you experience symptoms such as no energy, low concentration or not wanting to exercise or eat, you can do simple things to help such as:60e45f41d01430b8eceb45b2bdb87f8d_f934

 

  • Doing some gentle exercises every day
  • Planning ahead and doing more when you have more energy
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Resting when you feel tired instead of trying to sleep
  • Having a pre-sleep routine
  • Not exercising or drinking coffee or tea before bed
  • Not napping during the day.
For more information about coping with various symptoms, read the following articles from the Talking Hep C magazine:

Common blood tests for ongoing management

To monitor your hepatitis C you will need regular liver function tests. The tests measure chemicals in the blood made by the liver and give information about the condition of a person’s liver. They help monitor the activity and severity of hepatitis C. Some of the tests include:

  • ALT- Alanine transaminase
  • AST- Aspartate aminotransferase
  • ALP- Alkaline phosphatase
  • Albumin
  • Total protein
  • Bilirubin
  • GGT- Gamma-glutamyltransferase
  • Immunology.
Please read our information sheet for more detail about liver function tests.

Telling others

While you do not have to tell anyone about your diagnosis, reasonable precautions must be taken to avoid passing it on to others (see above for ‘preventing the spread’). It is often best to tell people you trust or people directly affected, such as household members or sexual partners.

People living with hepatitis C do not have to tell employers, unless you work in an environment that may put others at risk, such as healthcare. Discrimination against people with hepatitis in the workplace is illegal.

Telling health care workers such as a doctor or nurse may be beneficial for good health care (e.g. prescribing the most suitable medications). Health care workers, including dentists, must use standard infection control precautions for all situations and procedures that may involve contact with blood or other bodily fluids, regardless of whether you have hepatitis C or not.

Read about ‘Stigma and discrimination‘ in an article in issue 12 of Talking Hep C.

Preventing the spread

be2e0dce3c2c402f4ede0f25c1f45f4c_f906Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. To avoid infecting others you should take the following steps:

  • Cover any open cuts or sores
  • Clean any blood spillage with household bleach (do not put bleach on your skin)
  • Avoid sexual practices which may risk blood contact
  • Do not share piercing, tattooing, drug injecting or snorting equipment
  • Do not donate blood
  • Do not share razors, towels, toothbrushes, or any object that may come into contact with blood or body fluid.

Hepatitis C is not spread through everyday contact, e.g. touching, sneezing, coughing, or sharing cutlery.

Complementary medicines

Any patient with chronic hepatitis C should always discuss the use of any complementary or alternative medicine with their doctor or pharmacist.

While many complementary medicines are safe and provide specific benefits to people with chronic hepatitis, they can also have harmful effects and can interfere with other medicines, such as St John’s Wort, which reduces the effectiveness of telaprevir or victrelis treatment. The risk of liver toxicity from any medicine, both prescribed and complementary, is much higher in someone with underlying chronic viral hepatitis.

For more information, read the article ‘The long and short of it: Complementary medicines and hepatitis C‘ from issue 2 of Talking Hep C.

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© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016