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Preparing for treatment

Preparing mentally

Before you make your decision it is best to spend some time thinking about it. This way, when you do finally decide, you should be pretty certain that it is what you want. This should provide you with a sense of commitment, which will be important if the treatment gets tough.

If you do give up after a few months of treatment, you will probably have gone through a lot. You will have put in considerable time and effort, but because the treatment has not had long enough to work, will have got nothing in return.

You should prepare yourself to at least experience the most common side effects. You may be lucky and not experience any of the adverse side effects, but it is better to be prepared.

In most cases the symptoms you have had before the treatment starts will be magnified by treatment. If you have a tendency towards headaches, you are likely to get more, or if you have pain in your knees these will probably ache more. This is because many of the symptoms of hepatitis C are caused by the body’s immune system and not the actual virus.

The interferon treatment works by boosting your immune system’s reaction. The symptoms that you have already experienced thus become more intense.

Preparing physically

In general, the better physical condition you are in before you start treatment, the easier any side effects will be. It has also been shown that being overweight can reduce the likelihood of treatment being effective. So, anything you can do to increase your fitness levels and make sure your weight is right will help.

Preparing practically

If you can plan ahead with the treatment it probably will help lower your stress levels. The number of tests you will undergo to monitor the treatment means that for the first 2 or 3 months you will have to make frequent visits to hospital. This monitoring is absolutely essential for your health.

If you are working, you will require time off work to make these visits. You may also require time off if the side effects get too bad. You are likely to receive more support if you warn your employers in advance. This way they can make arrangements to have someone cover for you. If you have not been well enough to work, you may require someone to take you to hospital. Hospitals can usually organise this. If not, you may need to ask a friend. This is also easier when arranged in advance.

The more support you have during treatment the easier it will be. It is a good idea to think about this before starting. This will possibly give you the opportunity to find about the availability of local support groups (there is a list in the support section of this site). You may also want to give your number to the hepatitis nurse at your hospital and ask her to pass it on to other people doing treatment. You could also find out which of your family or friends might be available to offer you practical help, with activities such as shopping.

Depression is a common symptom and one that can be hard to deal with. This is because one of its aspects is that it tends to rob you of the impetus to do anything about it. Consultants are now much more proactive in their approach to depression and more likely to talk about it with you. If they think it is appropriate they might also prescribe you anti-depressants. It is worth remembering that different anti-depressants work for different people.

Some people find it hard to come off anti-depressants and you might want to arrange to see a psychiatrist during treatment so that you can be properly monitored. This may be especially appropriate if you have a history of depression. Your consultant may be able to refer you to a psychiatrist at the hospital, or you may be able to get a referral from your GP.