The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of chronic liver disease in the United States. In some cases, hepatitis C patients will develop peripheral neuropathy.
The hepatitis C virus is spread mainly by direct contact with infected blood (or blood products) through an opening in the skin or through a mucus membrane.
Currently, the major way of contracting hepatitis C is through sharing contaminated needles or syringes. Although many cases of hepatitis C were transmitted through blood transfusions, modern screening techniques introduced in 1991 have virtually eliminated transfusion-related hepatitis C. However, many people acquire the virus by using contaminated equipment for tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture, or through intranasal cocaine use by sharing equipment. Transmission of the virus by sexual contact or childbirth is rare.
Hepatitis C virus causes an inflammation of the liver that can lead to liver disease, including cirrhosis (scarring of liver tissue), liver failure, and liver cancer. A slow and chronic disease, hepatitis C virus infection can take 10 to 40 years to seriously damage the liver. With proper treatment, some patients may recover completely.
(Not all symptoms and signs may be present.)
There may not be specific symptoms, but the most likely symptoms include:
- For peripheral neuropathy:
- Numbness, pain, tingling in hands or feet
- For hepatitis C:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Dark urine
- General feeling of malaise
- Loss of appetite
- Mild fever and headaches
- Muscle and joint pain
EVALUATION AND TESTS
(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)
- Neurological exam
- Nerve conduction velocity test
Blood tests, including tests for hepatitis C virus and hepatitis C antibody test (anti-HCV)
- Test liver enzymes
- Liver biopsy
TREATMENT AND THERAPY
(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)
- Avoid alcoholic beverages
- Drug and drug combination therapies
- Interferon injections
- Ribavirin, taken orally
- Liver transplant may be necessary for liver failure
- Maintain healthy lifestyle
- Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation