Muscle & Joint Pain with Hepatitis C
Last updated: July 2023
Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver causing inflammation and damages liver tissue. Hepatitis C can also cause extrahepatic conditions to occur in the body outside of the liver. The hepatitis C virus can also cause inflammation in other parts of the body, causing joint and muscle pain. For example, arthritis (joint inflammation), muscle pain and weakness, along with blood vessel (vascular) problems can occur.
Why does hep C cause muscle & joint pain?
The hepatitis C infection activates the body’s immune system, which fights against the virus. The immune system activation can also cause joint and muscle pain. The hepatitis C virus mutates in the body and liver continually which increases the risk for inflammation to occur in joints and muscles.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, “It is common for HCV (hepatitis C virus) positive patients to have related rheumatic disease. In fact, these problems can appear before you even know you have HCV”.1
Treatment for hepatitis C and joint/muscle pain with hepatitis C is two-fold. There are a variety of treatment options for all hepatitis C genotypes and liver conditions. These treatments are highly effective with over 90% cure rate, short treatment duration, and few side effects.
Hepatitis C related joint and muscle problems can also be treated through medications that help arthritis. But, some medications that help relieve joint and muscle pain can also have damaging effects on the liver. It is best for a patient’s rheumatologist and liver specialist (hepatologist or gastroenterologist) to consult each other in treating the patient with joint and muscle problems and hepatitis C.
There are some medications called, anti-TNF drugs, which have helped hepatitis C patients with arthritis problems. These drugs have proven safe and does not cause harm to the liver nor increase viral replication. Other medications, like Rituximab for arthritis, are also being tested for hepatitis patients with arthritis problems.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like (NSAIDs) can also be used to help relieve joint and muscle pain. Consult with your physician before taking any medication on the type and amount that is safe for your liver condition.
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Curing joint & muscle pain through hep C treatment
For many hepatitis patients who have joint and muscle pain, once the patient has completed treatment for hepatitis C and eliminates the virus from the body, damage to the liver and inflammation decreases, which decreases inflammation in other parts of the body. For many, joint and muscle pain can be resolved.