What's the Link Between Hepatitis C and Diabetes?

The Link Between Hepatitis C and Diabetes

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  • The Link Between Hepatitis C and Diabetes

    The Link Between Hepatitis C and Diabetes

    Diabetes is increasing in the United States. Although healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent it, poor diet isn’t the only cause of diabetes. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is often associated with diabetes. Some diabetics may even develop chronic hepatitis.

    There’s no vaccine for HCV, so it’s crucial to know the risks and how your health may be affected in the long term by this virus.

  • What Is Hepatitis C?

    What Is Hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis is a virus that causes liver swelling (inflammation). The most common forms of the virus in the United States are hepatitis A, B, and C.

    HCV, which is transmitted through blood, is considered more dangerous because no vaccine for it exists. Hepatitis C prevents the liver from performing its basic functions, including:

    • food digestion
    • nutrient and energy storage
    • infection prevention
    • chemical removal from bloodstream
  • Beyond Liver Inflammation

    Beyond Liver Inflammation

    Considering all the functions the liver performs, hepatitis can be detrimental to your health. On a greater scale, HCV can be connected with other diseases, including diabetes.

    People develop diabetes when their bodies have difficulty absorbing blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is a source of energy that also affects all organs and muscles in the body.

    Since glucose is processed through the liver like other nutrients, the link between hepatitis C and diabetes shouldn’t be surprising.

  • Liver Health and Diabetes

    Liver Health and Diabetes

    Hepatitis C is linked to diabetes in two main ways. First, diabetes may occur as a result of chronic hepatitis C. While many forms of the virus start off as short-term illnesses, they can last without treatment. This is called chronic hepatitis.

    Chronic HCV eventually makes it difficult for the liver to get rid of excess glucose. This results in hyperglycemia. Treating hepatitis C is crucial to preventing interruptions in glucose output that cause diabetes.

  • Preexisting Diabetes

    Preexisting Diabetes

    On the flipside, people with diabetes eventually may develop hepatitis C. Long-term abnormalities in glucose maintenance can place added pressure on the liver. As a result, the  organ may become inflamed.

    According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 80 percent of diabetes patients have too much glucose built up in their livers. Having diabetes may also decrease your liver’s ability to fight off infections such as HCV.

  • Insulin and HCV Treatment

    Insulin and HCV Treatment

    It’s important to take insulin as recommended by your doctor if you have diabetes. If you also have hepatitis C, treatment can get tricky. Not only does insulin affect liver metabolism, but such medications may also decrease your resistance to hepatitis infections.

    To decrease your chances of HCV transmission, avoid sharing needles with others who have diabetes.

  • Long-Term Risks

    Long-Term Risks

    Having diabetes and HCV may cause other complications to arise. The biggest risk is advanced liver disease (cirrhosis). Cirrhosis also increases insulin levels, which makes diabetes management more difficult.

    Advanced forms of liver disease can cause failure, which can be fatal. Liver transplants are commonly ordered for cirrhosis, but the long-term effects on diabetes are questionable.

  • Managing Both Conditions

    Managing Both Conditions

    The link between hepatitis C and diabetes is one worth considering. Not all HCV patients will develop diabetes (and vice-versa), but the risk is still prevalent. It’s important to get tested for one disease if you have the other.

    Everyone with diabetes should get an HCV test. Your doctor may order an antibody blood test to measure future risks for contracting hepatitis C.

    HCV patients should continue to get regular blood tests that also include glucose measurements. Such measures are the best way to prevent further health complications associated with both health conditions.