The latest research & treatment news about Hepatitis C infection, diagnosis, symptoms and treatment.

Previous

First-in-Class HCV Drug Licensed by Novartis

Back to News Homepage

Next

A New System Can "See" Hepatitis C Infected Cells

Ten Tips to Relieve HCV-Related Itching

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. February 17, 2010

Print this page

Itching is a common symptom of Hepatitis C that goes underreported and undertreated. Instead of letting it drive you crazy, learn how home remedies and a physician’s prescription pad can help ease your itching.

An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people with chronic Hepatitis C experience the symptom of itching. Known clinically as pruritus, itching refers to the unpleasant sensation that causes the need to scratch. Whether localized to a specific region of the body, spread all over or relegated to the internal organs, pruritus is often guilty of plaguing those whose Hepatitis C has advanced to cirrhosis. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce this potentially maddening symptom.

More About Pruritus

Pruritus and pain are closely related sensations, since the same nerves transmit the signals of discomfort to the brain. Known as the itch-scratch cycle, an area of skin that is scratched often becomes even itchier, leading to more scratching.

Experts believe pruritus in people with liver disease is due to the accumulation of poisons that have not been effectively filtered by a damaged liver. When liver damage impedes the flow of bile through the liver, bile acids and bilirubin get backed up in the blood. Besides causing jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), high bilirubin levels often cause pruritus.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pruritus from an unknown cause is also considered to be due to toxins built up in the bloodstream. This accumulation of toxic substances generates heat. According to TCM, the sensation of itching is the body’s interpretation of excessive heat.

Pruritus can take on many different characteristics. Two of pruritus’ more troublesome complications include:

  • Itching that is worse at night and thus interferes with restful sleep.
  • Since simple scratching typically does not relieve it, some people risk skin infection and injury by scratching themselves with sharp objects.

Help for Pruritus

Because itching is such a nonspecific, seemingly innocuous event, many with Hepatitis C don’t bother discussing it with their physician. However, there are many interventions to help incessant itching. Since pruritus can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities, those with a severe case are encouraged to report their discomfort to a doctor.

If necessary, a physician can prescribe an appropriate medication to relieve the itching. Some of the drugs used for pruritus include:

  • Analgesics (pain-relievers) for neuropathic pain (gabapentin)
  • Antihistamines (Benadryl, Atarax)
  • Cholesterol lowering agents (Questran, Colestid)
  • Opiod antagonists (Narcan, Revia, Revex)
  • Antidepressants (Zoloft)

In addition, ten tips are listed below to reduce itching before you get in to see a doctor:

  1. Don’t Smoke – Not only does smoking reduce the effectiveness of Hepatitis C therapy, but it can also lead to Smoker’s Syndrome – characterized by episodes of facial flushing, warm palms and soles, throbbing headache, dizziness, lethargy, prickling sensation, joint pain and pruritus.
  2. Apply Cold Packs – Cold packs wrapped in a towel and placed over the skin cools heat and seems to relieve intense itching.
  3. Stay Hydrated – Drink sufficient amounts of water to keep the entire body hydrated. For more on water and liver disease, read How Much Water Does Your Liver Need?
  4. Avoid Soap – Use a non-soap cleanser such as Cetaphil or a similar substitute to prevent excessive drying of the skin.
  5. Take Milk Thistle – Since milk thistle protects liver cells from damage and aids in detoxification, this herb can help prevent the backup of toxins in the bloodstream.
  6. A Warm Shower – Because heat aggravates itching, make sure your bathing water’s temperature is not too hot.
  7. Dress Carefully – Whenever possible, wear loose fitting clothes made from natural fabrics that breathe. This prevents excess heat from being trapped against your skin.
  8. Moisturize – Apply moisturizing creams at least twice a day. For best results, use only non-perfumed, mild moisturizers.
  9. Don’t Scratch – So that you don’t engage the itch-scratch cycle and don’t cause damage to your skin, experiment with rubbing, vibration or applying pressure instead of scratching. Some people report good results from rubbing itchy areas with an ice cube.
  10. Oatmeal – Many get pruritus relief from taking a colloidal oatmeal bath. Colloidal oatmeal is still made from oats, but compared to breakfast oatmeal, colloidal oatmeal is ground very finely or even pulverized.

Those with Hepatitis C should be aware that feeling itchy could be a manifestation of the virus. Because it can be so disruptive, this symptom deserves attention. Besides discussing severe pruritus with your doctor, take advantage of the ten tips listed above to gain some respite from incessant itching.

References:

http://allergies.about.com/od/skinallergies/a/pruritus.htm, Itching, Daniel More, MD, Retrieved January 9, 2010, about.com, 2010.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/pruritus.pdf, Extrahepatic Manifestations: Pruritis (Itching), CD Mazoff, PhD, Retrieved January 9, 2010, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2010.

http://www.liverhealthtoday.org/viewarticle.cfm?aid=164, Pruritus in its most severe form can be debilitating, Geoff Drushel, Retrieved January 9, 2010, Liver Health Today, 2010.

13 Comments
Share
Share

Previous

First-in-Class HCV Drug Licensed by Novartis

Back to News Homepage

Next

A New System Can "See" Hepatitis C Infected Cells

Requirements for using and reposting articles

Comments

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.

  • nicholas endean

    A person I know has constant intching on both their cheeks.Both cheeks now have nasty marks on them which look bad.They also have a cold sore looking mark on the side of their mouth.They also have patches around their neck and hands just like the cheeks ones.Could this be directly related to the HC? I ask because the person puts their itching and scratching on the cheeks to being nervous, but this has never been the case in the 3 years we have been mates.Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shar.torain Shar Torain

    This is good information.

  • MindFury

    I get it around my ankles. I think the hard water of New Mexico has something to do with too. I’ve tried putting hydrocortizone on it, doesnt help..

  • obstructive jaundice

    Atarax doesn’t help -___-* STOP PRESCRIBING THIS!

  • Doctor Bob

    Despite what this article says, the very best treatment I have found for itching is very hot water. I have a shower as hot as I can stand, and this has an instant, and lasting, effect. I discovered this accidentally years ago after a case of scabies. I remembered that incident years later, when hep C caused chronic itching of ankles, upper thighs and lower back. I suspect it works by causing increased peripheral blood circulation at the site which may flush histamines away. When I say hot, I mean as close to scalding as you can stand. Repeat exposure of itchy area to the hot water 3 or 4 times. Then run cold water over the area. It is magic. The itching stops (for hours).

    • John

      I found the HOT water to work also.
      My home treatment is antihistamine, Advil, and amitriptyline .

      • John

        With occasional valium for sleep.
        My girl friend suggested lidocane, I prefer gels to ointments or creams. Some needed relief in middle of night

    • Connie Goldman

      This is true. As hot as possible even for a second. It interrupts the itching. I usually use a cortisone gel right afterwards, rubbing it in well. This works for mosquito bites, too.

  • Evalyn Fenua

    Thanks for the tips, atleast gives me knowledge concerning the itchness.

  • Vinay Dubey

    hi..

    My Dad had itching last year and his high bilirubin levels

    reach as high as 62… it was very surprisingly increase but other factor like SGPT / SGPOT , TLC DLC, all are normal except bilirubin…. he also got very severe itching ….. and doctor says… just wait & watch… they were doing not any so good treatment which could effect remarkably.
    But thanks to GOD… I don’t know how but it start decreasing and took more than 3 months to get normal range .
    I want to know whether it may come back again if yes please let me know the precaution for this? my dad is non-alcoholic.

  • Vinay Dubey

    Hey Nicole Cutler L.Ac

    Thanks for providing such a great information ….

    Would u please make a look on this CASE. its urgent

    My Dad had itching last year and his high bilirubin levels
    reached as high as 62… it was very surprisingly increase but other factor like SGPT / SGOT , TLC DLC, all are normal except bilirubin…. he also got very severe itching ….. and doctor says… just wait & watch… they were doing not any so good treatment which could be effect remarkably.
    But thanks to GOD… I don’t know how but it start decreasing bilirubin levels and took more than 3 months to get normal range .
    I want to know whether it may come back again if yes please let me know the precaution for this? my dad is non-alcoholic.

    We are from INDIA and wanted to know what to do with pruritus with jaundice. plzzzzzz.

  • Aryan Yadav

    Hello sir 3 weeks ago, after diagnosis i found my bilirubin level 5.5 and tlc 18000 i had the medicine prescribed by the physician medicines named orotic stafcure cv, tab: hicope, tab:riadien, cypol, urdohep, acidiv. After one week bilirubin level decrease to 2 and tlc 10000 and now I am taking medicine only urdohep and hicope as prescribed by physician. But now nd meanwhile i feel itching in whole body and un pleasant sensations as ant are biting when i do some wwork or feel hot and one day after taking some cold drinks fever and headache occured.. Am i on right track? Suggest me some for diet and that ithing and ant cutting sensation will this go for everlasting?

  • Jane Trisia

    I was diagnosed with hepatitis C about 12 years ago. At first I was emotionally devastated My symptoms were bad and I just felt like I was going to die. My dentist didn’t want to see me anymore when I told her that I had the virus, and my family reacted very badly. It was quite an effort, but I didn’t give up. just few months ago i found a traditional healer in health forum who cured me with his herbal medicine, i only had the treatment for two weeks and everything was ok with me, i mean i was hundred percent ok. i’m so much exited that i got rid to hepatitis c out of my life. you have the email here attached to contact the traditional healer. [email protected]