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can hepatitis c return after treatment

By: RSC Editorial Team

April 2, 2023

Can Hepatitis C Return After Treatment?

Have you recently contracted hepatitis C and are wondering, “Can hepatitis C return after treatment?” Viral infections like hepatitis C can be scary, but they are not uncommon and are typically highly treatable. Thanks to advancements in medical research and same-day STD testing, you can spot the warning signs early and get the treatment you need and move on with life.

The question is, is an STD coming back after treatment possible? Specifically, is it possible with hepatitis C when acquired through sexual activity?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Medications can help treat symptoms, but there still remains a small likelihood of reinfection.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the hepatitis C virus and find answers to frequently asked questions like the following:

  • Can your body heal itself from hepatitis C?
  • How do you get hepatitis C?
  • Does hep C go away after treatment?

About the Hepatitis C Virus

Hepatitis C is a viral infection resulting from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). While some patients with hepatitis C experience symptoms and seek treatment during its early stages, many don’t even know they contracted the virus because hepatitis C symptoms can take years to appear. That said, you should get a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Dark, discolored urine
  • Yellowing skin and eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling legs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Confusion and slurred speech

Hepatitis C can either be acute or chronic. In other words, it could be a one-time infection that goes away after proper treatment and antiviral therapy. However, many people suffer from chronic infection and face a lifelong struggle with liver failure and life-threatening health problems.


Understanding how hepatitis C spreads can help protect yourself from infection and prevent it from passing to someone else. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, meaning it travels from one person to the next via contaminated blood. Transmission of hepatitis C typically involves one of the following:

  • Reusing unsterilized medical equipment: Hospitals and medical facilities care for hundreds of patients every day. HCV and other viral infections can quickly spread if syringes, needles, and other equipment don’t get properly sterilized after use.
  • Using unscreened blood products: Since HCV spreads through contaminated blood, you could contract it if a healthcare professional does not adequately screen products before blood transfusions.
  • Sharing injection equipment: Using a drug needle or syringe that an infected person previously used puts you at a high risk of infection.
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse: Though not as common, HCV can also spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected individual.

Myths About Hepatitis C

As with many other diseases and medical conditions, several myths surround the hepatitis C virus. Here are some popular claims you may hear that are actually false:

  • Hepatitis C has no effective treatment.
  • You can get hepatitis C through hugging and kissing.
  • Hepatitis C goes away on its own.
  • It’s easy to tell if you have hepatitis C.

Can You Catch Hep C Twice?

Can hepatitis C return after treatment? Is hepatitis C contagious after being cured?

Hepatitis C reinfection is possible after undergoing successful treatment and seeing symptoms disappear. Even if antiviral medications have technically cured you and HCV no longer shows up on a blood test, that doesn’t mean your body is immune to infection.

A few decades ago, the only way to treat hepatitis C involved using interferon, which cured less than 10% of patients and often came with severe side effects. Since then, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a group of drugs called direct-acting antivirals (DAA) to help treat HCV. This group of medications includes the following:

  • Zepatier (elbasvir/grazoprevir)
  • Mavyret (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir)
  • Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir)
  • Sovaldi (sofosbuvir)
  • Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir)

A 2019 study shows that DAA medications can effectively treat and cure HCV in over 95% of patients. You can take these antiviral drugs orally and see noticeable improvements in just weeks, being totally cured in about four months. Again, though, that does not guarantee you will never get the virus if exposed in the future.

DAAs help your body develop antibodies and block the proteins that allow the hepatitis C virus to grow. However, there is a 1% chance the virus may return after you stop treatment and expose yourself to contaminated blood via unsterilized medical equipment, reused needles, unscreened blood products, etc. Some people are more susceptible to HCV reinfection than others due to their lifestyle and decisions.

Sustained Virological Response

Sustained virological response (SVR) refers to testing negative for the hepatitis C virus after undergoing treatment. In medical terms, achieving a sustained virological response means the antiviral drugs were successful in curing you, and your blood test shows no sign of the virus.

Achieving SVR is the ultimate goal of taking direct-acting antiviral medications and seeking professional help to manage your symptoms. Up until the early 1990s, getting to that point as a hepatitis C patient was rare. Now, it’s not only possible but common.


You should never take viral infections lightly — that goes for hepatitis C, too. While the hepatitis C virus is highly treatable thanks to DAAs, it can still lead to significant health problems if left unaddressed for a long period of time. You’ll want to take a blood test and seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect you may have contracted HCV.

Failing to treat hepatitis C over the span of several years may result in serious complications, such as the following:

  • Liver scarring (cirrhosis): People typically associate liver cirrhosis with excessive alcohol consumption, but it can also occur due to viral infections like hepatitis C. Cirrhosis is a condition that replaces healthy tissue with scar tissue. This scarring in your liver can prevent it from working correctly.
  • Liver cancer: Another complication of the hepatitis C virus is liver cancer. It’s not a very common occurrence, but an untreated hep C infection may develop into liver cancer for some patients.
  • Liver failure: If an acute case of hepatitis C turns into a chronic infection, you could face severe health concerns like liver failure. Liver failure results from scar tissue building up and causing your liver to no longer function.
  • Death: Chronic hepatitis C impacts day-to-day life and can be life-threatening. Your liver is an essential organ that processes blood and creates the nutrients you need to stay alive. It could be fatal if your liver stops working properly or fails altogether.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of the people infected with the hepatitis C virus develop chronic infections. 

Preventing Hepatitis C Recurrence

If you’re wondering, “Can hepatitis C return after treatment?” you may also wonder, “What can I do to avoid getting hepatitis C again?”

Millions of people worldwide live with acute or chronic hepatitis C and will likely experience reinfection, even after successful treatment. Sometimes, reinfection is unavoidable; however, you can take several steps to minimize the chances of hepatitis C recurrence.

Here are a few practical ways to prevent infection and mitigate the spread of HCV:

  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes: Since the hepatitis C virus usually transmits through reused needles and syringes, avoiding these items is one of the best ways to prevent HCV recurrence. If you do need injected drugs, get them through your healthcare provider or a syringe services program. This ensures your equipment is clean, unused, and free of any contamination.
  • Do not engage in unprotected sex: Hepatitis C is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but the viral infection may spread through unprotected sexual intercourse. Men who have sex with other men and people with multiple partners are especially at risk of exposure to the hepatitis C virus. Using a condom during sex is an excellent way to prevent reinfection.
  • Follow health and safety protocols: Do you work in a hospital, doctor’s office, or another medical facility? Many healthcare professionals expose themselves to potentially contaminated blood on a regular basis. You’ll want to wear protective equipment and observe all health and safety protocols to reduce the risk of becoming reinfected with HCV.
  • Take care of your mental health: Another practical way to prevent hepatitis C recurrence is by monitoring and managing your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can impair your better judgment and cause you to make poor decisions, such as having unprotected sex and turning to illicit drugs for relief. Taking care of your mental health will help you make good choices and live a safer lifestyle.
  • Get routine HCV testing: Are you concerned about hepatitis C reinfection? Consider getting a regular HCV screening to catch the infection before it worsens or verify that you are healthy. Blood tests and screenings cannot keep you from getting HCV, but they can give you peace of mind and help you enjoy a higher quality of life.

Hepatitis C doesn’t come out of nowhere. You can stay safe and avoid HCV recurrence by taking practical steps and making responsible decisions.

Treatment of Hepatitis C

Treating the hepatitis C virus involves taking certain types of medication for several weeks. In some cases, the patient’s body will be able to fight off the infection on its own and not require treatment. However, you should consider treatment if the infection persists for several months.

When treating acute hepatitis, doctors may recommend waiting to see if your body successfully fights off the virus before starting treatment. You might take an initial blood test and then another one after a few weeks to check on the progress. If the infection continues, it becomes chronic hepatitis and should not go untreated.

Treatment for hepatitis C may differ slightly from patient to patient. For the most part, though, here’s what you can expect when treating HCV infection:

  • Taking direct-acting antivirals: Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are the safest, most effective medications to help treat hepatitis C. You might take one or more DAA medication during your treatment, depending on your history of hepatitis and the virus strain. Always talk to your physician before taking medications and changing the dosage amount.
  • Having routine blood tests: The treatment process also includes routine blood tests to confirm that the medication is working as expected and you’re on the road to recovery. The hepatitis C virus travels through the bloodstream, so a blood test can help provide an accurate diagnosis. Routine tests will no longer be necessary once you achieve a sustained virologic response (SVR).
  • Undergoing assessments: During your two-to-four-month treatment period, your doctor may run tests to evaluate your overall health and wellness. Hepatitis C can affect more than your liver and lead to various medical concerns. By having regular assessments, you can track your progress and ensure that your body is recovering properly.

DAA tablets are easy to take and come with little to no side effects. Some patients report feeling under the weather and having difficulty sleeping during early treatment regimens, but these side effects soon dissipate. If you encounter problems with any of your medications, stop taking them and speak with your doctor right away.

Take Charge of Your Sexual Health With Rapid STD Testing

Can hepatitis C return after treatment, even if the medications work and you achieve SVR? The short answer is yes, you can still get hepatitis C after undergoing treatment. However, making good decisions and certain lifestyle changes can help prevent HCV reinfection.

At Rapid STD Testing, we have the resources you need to stay informed about your sexual health. Our noninvasive testing options value your privacy and help detect sexually transmitted diseases or infections early. Visit a testing center near you to get started with a 10-panel STD test today.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
April 2, 2023

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