Concurrent Hepatitis C and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Having one chronic illness is difficult enough; but having two chronic diseases is even more of a challenge. Unfortunately, chronic Hepatitis C and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) occur simultaneously more frequently than most realize. Although having these two conditions makes wellness harder to achieve, three easily available natural substances seem to benefit both conditions.
About Hepatitis C
A viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver, Hepatitis C chronically affects about 170 million people worldwide. Spread via blood-to-blood contact, the most common way to get Hepatitis C is by injecting drugs or sharing a needle with someone who has Hepatitis C. However, there are many other ways to contract this illness – including receiving a blood transfusion prior to 1992 and long-term kidney dialysis.
Because most people infected with Hepatitis C do not have symptoms, their infection is likely to go unnoticed until it has caused significant liver damage. Capable of causing progressive liver injury, Hepatitis C infection has the potential of reaching advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
The treatment for Hepatitis C has made great strides in recent years, eliminating the virus in 50 to 75 percent of those who can endure the intense drug cocktail. Regrettably, not everyone with Hepatitis C is a candidate for the pharmaceutical treatment and many people cannot endure the sometimes severe side effects. Those who are not able to get rid of the Hepatitis C virus must be vigilant with helpful lifestyle choices to prevent the progression of their liver disease.
A leading cause of death and illness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease refers to a group of lung diseases that cause breathing difficulties. Composed primarily of emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis, COPD eventually damages the airways and interferes with the lung’s exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Smoking is the leading culprit of this type of lung disease; the more a person smokes, the more likely he or she will develop COPD. Besides tobacco smoke, long-term exposure to inhaled irritants like dust, chemical fumes and air pollution can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Because COPD’s damage to the lungs is permanent, treatment is aimed at controlling symptoms and preventing further damage. Medications are used to open airways, reduce lung inflammation and quell concurrent infections. Lifestyle choices (like quitting smoking and exercising) are essential for helping those with COPD breathe easily and prevent further lung damage.
COPD and Hepatitis C Together
Although there have been relatively few studies on their concurrence, clinicians frequently report patients having both chronic Hepatitis C and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As published in a February 2010 edition of the journal Epidemiology and Infection, Brazilian researchers investigated the prevalence of Hepatitis C in patients with COPD. In their study, they found the following:
- The prevalence of Hepatitis C infection in COPD patients was 7.5 percent.
- The prevalence of Hepatitis C infection in blood donors was .41 percent.
In addition to demonstrating a significantly greater likelihood of Hepatitis C infection in those with COPD than the general blood donation population, this research also revealed that patients with COPD had more severe lung disease when they also were infected with Hepatitis C. There have been various theories explaining why these two illnesses frequently co-exist, such as:
- Lung damage could be an extrahepatic manifestation of Hepatitis C. This means that besides the liver, the pulmonary system might be an additional location this virus infiltrates.
- Those who partake in lifestyle choices known to cause COPD might be more likely to engage in activity that spreads the Hepatitis C virus.
- Chronic Hepatitis C infection could function as a trigger for inflammation in the lungs, thus initiating or exacerbating the development of COPD.
Disease Progression Intervention
While further studies are needed to clarify the relationship between Hepatitis C and COPD, experts have identified three natural substances that could benefit the progression of both ailments: Vitamin C, Vitamin D and N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC).
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps neutralize free radicals, substances that are known to cause cellular damage via oxidation. Experts believe Vitamin C may suppress oxidative damage in the lungs, hindering the development of chronic lung diseases and reducing lung damage. The Hepatitis C virus is known to induce a particularly high level of oxidative stress in the liver. As such, Vitamin C is also used to reduce Hepatitis C’s oxidative damage to liver cells.
- Vitamin D – Studies have shown that both people with Hepatitis C and COPD are deficient in Vitamin D. A study presented at the 2011 American Thoracic Society International Conference found that patients with COPD who took Vitamin D had a significant improvement in lung capacity. A study presented at the 2010 conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases found that Vitamin D dramatically reduced blood levels of Hepatitis C in those with the virus.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – A revered amino acid, NAC is the precursor to the body’s most powerful endogenous antioxidant – glutathione. NAC was first developed as a dietary supplement to help break up mucus in the lungs in conditions such as bronchitis. However, current studies are showing that NAC can slow the progression of, and ease the symptoms of COPD. One of glutathione’s best-known roles is to defend cells against damage from wastes and toxins, making it an ideal choice for those wanting to protect their liver from toxicity. Due to its constant battle defending itself against Hepatitis C, a liver infected with this virus can benefit from increased resistance to toxins. In addition, research has consistently shown that lower levels of glutathione are associated with more severe liver disease.
Those who have both Hepatitis C and COPD are not alone. Physicians still don’t know exactly why these two illnesses frequently present together. However, they do recognize that their concurrence requires a greater effort to prevent disease advancement. By taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D and NAC, people with Hepatitis C and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can be actively involved in preserving their lung and liver wellness.
Editor’s Note: This is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Because each person’s needs are unique, always discuss any new health care regimen with your chosen doctor.
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