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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 on the rise in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, the number of people with diagnosed diabetes in the United States increased by almost 400 percent from 1988 to 2014.

    Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent type 2 diabetes. But poor lifestyle choices aren’t the only cause for developing the condition.

    The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is often associated with the development of diabetes. And some people with diabetes develop chronic hepatitis.

    The most common way to get the hepatitis C virus is through exposure to infected blood. This can happen by:

    • injecting drugs with a syringe previously used by an infected person
    • sharing a personal hygiene item, like a razor used by an infected person
    • getting a tattoo or a body piercing with a needle that has infected blood on it

    There is no vaccine to prevent or treat HCV. It’s important to know the risks of contracting the HCV virus, and how your health may be affected in the long term.

  • What is hepatitis C?

    What is hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis is a virus that causes liver swelling, or inflammation. The most common forms of the hepatitis virus in the United States are:

    • hepatitis A
    • hepatitis B
    • hepatitis C

    Hepatitis C is considered the most dangerous of the three forms 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
  • The link between hepatitis C and diabetes

    The link between hepatitis C and diabetes

    Since hepatitis can impact the many functions that your liver performs, the disease can be detrimental to your health. HCV can also increase your chances of developing other diseases, including diabetes.

    You can develop diabetes if the cells in your body have difficulty absorbing blood sugar, or glucose. Glucose is a source of energy that is used by many organs and muscles in the body.

    HCV may increase the body’s insulin resistance, which is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

    Therapy used to treat HCV may also lead to type 2 diabetes.

    Finally, autoimmune problems seen with HCV may increase the risk for developing type 1 diabetes.

  • Liver health and diabetes

    Liver health and diabetes

    Hepatitis C is linked to diabetes. And diabetes is linked to HCV.

    You may eventually develop hepatitis C if you have preexisting diabetes.

    Or you may develop diabetes as a result of preexisting chronic hepatitis.

    Preexisting diabetes

    If you have diabetes, you may eventually develop hepatitis C. The reasons for this are unclear but may be due to the liver storing more fat or being inflamed.

    Having diabetes may also decrease your liver’s ability to fight off infections, including HCV.

    Chronic hepatitis

    Many forms of the HCV virus start off as short-term illnesses. Without treatment, they do not resolve and can last. This is called chronic hepatitis.

    Chronic HCV eventually makes it difficult for the liver to function. This, along with other factors, like increasing insulin resistance, can lead to the development of diabetes.

  • 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 be challenging. The liver can become more insulin resistant with HCV, so you may need more insulin to keep blood sugar levels within target.

    Insulin therapy may increase the risk of liver cancer. And it may also decrease your resistance to hepatitis infection.

  • Long-term risks

    Long-term risks

    Having both diabetes and HCV may cause other complications. The biggest risk is advanced liver disease, called cirrhosis.

    Cirrhosis also increases the liver’s insulin resistance, which makes diabetes management more difficult.

    Advanced forms of liver disease can cause liver failure, which can be fatal. Liver transplants are commonly needed for cirrhosis, but the long-term effects of cirrhosis on diabetes are not completely known.

  • Managing both conditions

    Managing both conditions

    The link between hepatitis C and diabetes is uncertain. It is not certain that you will develop diabetes if you have HCV. And it’s not certain that you will develop HCV if you have diabetes.

    Still, there is a risk for developing one condition if you already have the other. And 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.

    If you have HCV, you should continue to get regular blood tests that include glucose measurements.

    Regular monitoring of your glucose levels is the best way to prevent complications associated with both health conditions.