Hepatitis C is one of the many viral infections with the tendency to affect the liver. In approximately 75% of cases, the infection will become chronic, meaning that it does not go away. After about 20 years of a chronic Hepatitis C infection, approximately 20% of these people will develop cirrhosis (or hardening) of the liver. Liver failure is also a very common complication, although Hepatitis C infection may also result in a number of blood cell disorders which manifest most typically in the skin as itching, bruises and other odd discolorations as well as intestinal bleeds manifesting as vomiting blood or passing stools that are black, indicating the presence of digested blood. There is also an increased tendency to develop a type of cancer known as Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Depending on your general state of health and the type of Hepatitis C infection that you have, you may not be treated for the infection. This is because of the high costs associated with treatment, as well as the associated side effects and the fact that a small number of persons will recover without treatment and furthermore, only about 60% of persons will actually be cured by the current medical standards. The goals of treating Hepatitis C infections are to eliminate the virus as well as to prevent the development of liver cirrhosis and liver failure, thereby reducing the likelihood that a liver transplant will be required. How long you are treated for will depend on the type of Hepatitis C virus with which you have been infected, whether you have an acute (short-term) or chronic (long term) infection and your response to the treatment being given.
Most persons with an acute infection will not be treated, simply because they do not know they have it. If, however, it is known that a person is infected with Hepatitis C, prompt treatment may help prevent the progression to chronic Hepatitis though the actual guidelines for treatment in this case are still being debated. It is common for persons not to discover Hepatitis C infection until it has already become chronic. When this happens, treatment becomes necessary only in the presence of liver damage and a combination of medicines (such as interferon and ribavirin) may be required to fight the infection.
You will also need to be followed up by your doctor with routine blood tests to determine your level of liver function in response to treatment and any possible adverse reactions which might occur. Also, if you choose not to take your medicine then you will need to have a liver biopsy done every 5 years to assess the level of liver damage.
Note, that antiviral therapy for Hepatitis C is not recommended for persons who use IV drugs or drink alcohol, have advanced cirrhosis, are pregnant or may become pregnant, suffer from major depression or other mental disorder, have an autoimmune disease (eg psoriasis, lupus , or rheumatoid arthritis), or have other medical conditions such as seizures, heart disease or severe diabetes.
Alternatively, there are certain alternative and complimentary treatments for Hepatitis C which include plant extracts like ginseng, licorice root and milk thistle. Other therapies that may be used include relaxation techniques, chiropractic care and massage; none of which are curative, but they have been credited with relieving the pain associated with Hepatitis C. These natural therapies are used to boost the immune system, reduce liver inflammation and improve gastrointestinal function and they have been reported as being successful by as much as 40% of Hepatitis C patients who were not cured by traditional medicine.