A woman leans over in pain, clutching her stomach and back. The outline of her internal organs is visible, with the liver and kidneys glowing red.

Hepatitis C and Kidney Disease

The hepatitis C virus can cause risk for a variety of extrahepatic conditions, like kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, and others. For example, the hepatitis C virus can cause problems with kidney function, with risk for kidney damage. The American Kidney Foundation states hepatitis C can lead to vasculitis. The term "vasculitis" refers to swelling of the blood vessels, arteries, and veins. If the blood vessels of your kidneys get inflamed, this can lead to acute kidney injury.1

Normal kidney function helps regulate body fluid, blood pressure, blood chemistry and helps remove waste. Poor kidney function can lead to a reduction of blood flow causing renal artery disease.

Hepatitis C and chronic kidney disease

The American Kidney Foundation states hepatitis C can cause a type of kidney disease called glomerulonephritis. Glomerulonephritis refers to swelling of the kidney filters (glomeruli), which can lead to permanent damage.1

When your kidney filters become damaged, this can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). Hepatitis C also raises the risk of getting diabetes. Diabetes is the primary cause of kidney disease and kidney failure.

Symptoms of kidney damage

The symptoms of kidney damage include:

  • Itching
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite/not hungry
  • Swelling in your ankles and feet
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble catching your breath
  • Unusual urination (too much or too little urine)
  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Nosebleeds
  • Diarrhea

If you develop any of these symptoms, see your doctor and have your kidney function tested. Discuss all symptoms with your doctor and let them know you have hepatitis C.

Testing

If you have hepatitis C and don’t have symptoms for kidney disease, kidney function tests are still recommended. Often. kidney symptoms don’t appear until the kidneys are damaged. Typically, two types of kidney tests are done - a blood test (eGFR) and a urine test. The eGFR tells how well your kidneys are functioning. The urine test checks for protein in your urine.

Treatment for kidney disease & hep C

Treatment can be broken down into categories, including: healthy living (including a healthy diet tailored for kidney disease and hepatitis C), no alcohol, no smoking, exercise, and regular monitoring by your kidney and liver specialist. If you have hepatitis C, seek treatment for hep C.

Determining which hepatitis C treatment to use for a patient with kidney disease is carefully considered since there are some hepatitis C treatments with direct-acting antivirals that are not formulated to work well for those with renal disease. It is best to consult with your liver specialist (hepatologist or gastroenterologist) and kidney specialist (nephrologist or urologist).

Treatment for kidney disease

Treatment for kidney disease will depend on the level of kidney damage. Treatments include hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, kidney transplant, and medical management.

Be proactive. If you have hepatitis C, be tested for other extrahepatic conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can help you prevent damaging effects.

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