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Hepatitis C’s Impact – From Head to Toe

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. January 31, 2014

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Harming more than just the liver, seven other areas of the body are frequently affected by Hepatitis C infection.
Hepatitis C’s Impact – From Head to Toe

Hepatitis C is a common, infectious virus that targets the liver; yet this illness can affect many other parts of the body. Because we generally don’t equate a long list of health issues with the liver, many don’t recognize the connection between Hepatitis C and a vast array of ailments.

Studies have found that between 70 and 74 percent of those with Hepatitis C experience extrahepatic manifestions – conditions that affect organs other than the liver. In hopes of prompting those infected to stay as healthy as possible, below is a list of seven other areas that can be impacted when the liver is continuously battling against the Hepatitis C virus.

  1. Brain – When Hepatitis C infection causes enough liver damage to impair this organ’s ability to filter the blood, toxins can build up in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, accumulated toxicity may damage the central nervous system and impair brain function. Known as hepatic encephalopathy, symptoms may include confusion, forgetfulness, poor concentration, personality changes, abnormal shaking, agitation, disorientation, slurred speech and, in the most severe cases, coma. By aiding detoxification, supplementing with a comprehensive nutraceutical such as Liver Support & Detox can help prevent brain involvement via inhibition of toxin accumulation.
  2. Eyes – An inflammatory disease that damages the salivary glands causing dry mouth and eyes, sialadenitis has been associated with Hepatitis C infection. In addition, Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS) is an autoimmune disease that renders the eyes and mouth dry. SS is found more often in people with Hepatitis C than in the general population. Although the exact physiology is not well understood, Hepatitis C seems to increase susceptibility to eye troubles. To protect eye health, consider providing your eyes with the nutrition needed to function optimally with Advanced Eye & Vision Support Formula.
  3. Thyroid – Part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland delivers hormones into the bloodstream. In certain individuals, the Hepatitis C virus may cause the immune system to mistakenly injure the thyroid – either causing overactivity (hyperthyroidism) or underactivity (hypothyroidism). Hypothyroidism may lead to feeling sluggish and cold while hyperthyroidism can cause symptoms such as nervousness and rapid heartbeat. Supplying the body with the thyroid-nourishing vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts found in Thyroid Support can help protect this valuable gland.
  4. Joints and Muscles – According to the American College of Rheumatology, it is common for people with Hepatitis C to have related rheumatic diseases – problems affecting the muscles, joints and connective tissue. The joint and muscle complications of Hepatitis C result when the body’s immune system fights against the virus. One of the most common causes of joint and muscle pain with Hepatitis C is rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition characterized by inflammation of the synovial joints.
  5. Digestion – Many who undergo Hepatitis C treatment suffer with digestive problems like low appetite, nausea and abdominal distention. Even those not taking antivirus therapy are vulnerable to digestive issues. Because the liver plays an important role in the digestive system, many with Hepatitis C experience upset stomach, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Although a physician should always be consulted about these symptoms, many of these digestive problems are aided by re-colonizing the gastrointestinal tract with a powerful probiotic supplement, such as Super Probiotics.
  6. High Blood Sugar – A healthy liver helps convert sugars into glucose and store it for energy. Too much sugar in the bloodstream can lead to insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Part of a collection of health problems termed metabolic syndrome, high blood sugar is frequently accompanied by obesity, high blood pressure and a fatty liver. An increasing number of studies are showing that high blood sugar, insulin resistance and diabetes are seen more often in those with Hepatitis C than the general population. While eating low glycemic index foods and exercising regularly are the best ways to avert high blood sugar, supplementing with Clinical Metabolic X also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent the development or worsening of metabolic syndrome.
  7. Hands and Feet – A painful condition that affects the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears and nose, Raynaud’s phenomena is a disorder that causes the blood vessels in extremities to constrict. A potential Hepatitis C extrahepatic manifestation, cryoglobulinemia is a blood disorder caused by abnormal proteins that clump together when blood is chilled. In people with Hepatitis C-related cryoglobulinemia, one study found that 30 percent of affected individuals also had Raynaud’s phenomenon. Preventing this problem is best achieved by quitting smoking, exercising regularly and keeping out of extremely cold temperatures.

From your head down to your toes, Hepatitis C infection can wreck havoc just about everywhere. These seven areas of the body do not represent every possible target for Hepatitis C; however, they certainly cover a large portion of this virus’s extrahepatic manifestations. Shielding the liver from this virus will help minimize liver damage, but it should not be the only therapeutic approach. Depending on where your vulnerability lies, it makes sense to expand Hepatitis C wellness routines accordingly. Whether you notice confusion and forgetfulness, signs of metabolic syndrome, sluggishness, diarrhea and nausea, cold extremities or inflamed joints, providing applicable nutritional support and/or lifestyle adjustments can ease the burden of many extrahepatic manifestations.

References:

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/Extrahepatic.pdf, An Overview of Extrahepatic Manifestations of Hepatitis C, Alan Franciscus, Retrieved January 25, 2014, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2014.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/raynauds.pdf, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, Alan Franciscus, Retrieved January 26, 2014, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2014.

http://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/effects-on-the-body, Learn the Effects of Hepatitis C on the Body, Ann Pietrangelo, Retrieved January 25, 2014, Healthline Networks, Inc., 2014.

http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/Hepatitis_C_Info/Stages+of+Hepatitis+C/Symptoms, Symptoms, Retrieved January 26, 2014, Hepatitis C Trust, 2014.

http://www.liversupport.com/wordpress/2010/01/why-a-healthy-liver-equals-healthy-eyes/, Why a Healthy Liver Equals Healthy Eyes, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 26, 2013, Natural Wellness, 2014.

http://www.rheumatology.org/Practice/Clinical/Patients/Diseases_And_Conditions/HCV_and_Rheumatic_Disease/, HCV and Rheumatic Disease, Retrieved January 26, 2013, American College of Rheumatology, 2014.

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HepatitisCentral.com provides information regarding hepatitis and liver disease. Comments are available to the community in order to discuss these topics and obtain answers to questions through community members. The Editors at HepatitisCentral.com will not be responding to questions or comments posed in article comments.

  • droitduseigneur

    Thanks for the great article. Years ago I read that taking zinc can help with “brain fog” and have done so with no ill effects.

  • Crystal Moquin

    They didn’t mention that it can cause ESRD also. My husband has hep c induced membrane proliferative glomerulonephritis. He is on dialysis.

  • S T

    Hepatic Insufficiency secondary to chronic HCV is responsible for hormonal, enzyme imbalances that have caused ovarian failure, hypothyroidism, peripheral neuropathy, debilitating, confusion, mood and fatigue s/s for me. Diagnosed in 1998, Pegasus treatment 2003, NSR @ 6months post therapy.
    I am now facing my demons and just applied for SSI/Disability last week.
    I am thrilled with new treatment meds I still have side effects from interferon/ribavarin.

  • Michele Maria Fernandez

    What does onr take for pain? I ache and sometimes can’t even lift my shoulder and my knees and lower back are non stop.

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    Thank you this is very enlightening. .