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What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Interferon for Hepatitis?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 February 2017
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Many people are prescribed interferon for hepatitis, a disease of the liver that can range in severity from mild to life threatening. Interferon is a naturally occurring substance produced by the body to combat viruses. Scientists developed synthetic interferon for hepatitis in three forms: beta, gamma, and alpha. Though it has proven to be an effective tool against the disease, its side effects can be severe.

Interferon for hepatitis is taken by injection. The injected interferon changes the body's immune system by increasing its natural ability to fight the virus. It does this by changing the body's immune system to produce more virus-fighting cells. Different types of hepatitis respond to different types of interferon, which has prompted the development of several different kinds of the medication.

Interferon Alpha-2B has been among the most often recommended types of interferon for hepatitis B. If it is ineffective, then interferon-Alpha 2A may be tried. For hepatitis C, the FDA has approved interferons including pegylated Alpha-2B and Alphacon-1. Chronic hepatitis or hepatitis D is typically treated with pegylated interferon. In most cases, the patient is also prescribed a strong antiviral medication in conjunction with the interferon injections.

Side effects for interferon treatments can range from mild to severe. Reported side effects include flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. Blood counts may be impaired and show a decrease in white cells and platelets.

Psychological side effects of interferon have also been reported. They include depression and suicidal thoughts. Some interferon patients have suffered from psychosis, manic highs, and visual or auditory hallucinations while in treatment.

Physical side effects of interferon for hepatitis treatment include damage to body organs. Kidney, liver, and heart issues have been reported, along with bone marrow problems. These side effects usually occur when the patient is taking a high dosage of interferon.

Advantages of taking interferon for hepatitis include the possibility of a complete cure. For the majority of patients, however, interferon will not cure the hepatitis, but will alleviate symptoms and put the disease in remission. Most patients will ultimately have the disease return and will require further treatment.

Patients with other issues such as HIV do not typically respond as well to the treatment and have a higher incident of the disease returning later. People with mental illnesses, additional infections, heart issues, or certain eye disorders generally are not good candidates for interferon injections. They should be closely monitored by medical professionals if they decide to move forward with the treatment.

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