Peripheral Neuropathy with Hepatitis C
It was late 2011, I began noticing extreme pain and sharp, electric shock-like feelings shooting from my head down my body and out my feet. It caused a jolting sensation of my body as it happened, and involuntary muscle movements (literally jerking my body). This was followed by all the sudden sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. The extreme cold weather bothered me, along with very hot days. My legs and feet would scream out in pain. Eventually, I received a diagnosis for peripheral neuropathy, a side effect of hepatitis C.
Where was the pain coming from?
It became so bad that the pressure of water coming out of the shower hitting the tops of my feet caused pain. It was a sharp, needle-stabbing pain that felt like millions of them poking into me at the same time. No longer could I go barefoot outside. The sensation of grass under my feet even caused pain. My arms began with severe sensitivity to the blood pressure cuff as it pumped up to take my blood pressure. And, oh my gosh, the rubber band to tighten your arm for blood draws would leave me in tears.
I did not know what was going on with me. I was in pain all the time. If I was on my feet or did lots of walking, I was in a mess of pain. Add on top the normal pain for which we know hep C alone causes with joint and muscles. Somedays, it is too painful to do much of anything. I have learned to take blankets and toss in the dryer on high heat to heat up and wrap my body in it for fast comfort. I also take warm baths to get the sharp nerve shock in my feet to settle down. If I wake up with jolting muscles and movements from the nerves misfiring, I get up out of bed and head directly to the bathtub. It is the only way to calm them down so I can sleep.
The connection between neuropathy and hep C
I was diagnosed finally in 2016 with peripheral neuropathy, a condition very common for those who have experienced or fought hep C. Many people with hepatitis C experience this condition.
As described by WebMD:
"The peripheral nerves make up an intricate network that connects the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin, and internal organs. Peripheral nerves come out of the spinal cord and are arranged along lines in the body called dermatomes. Typically, damage to a nerve will affect one or more dermatomes, which can be tracked to specific areas of the body. Damage to these nerves interrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body and can impair muscle movement, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain."1
Treatment options: medication and/or exercise
There are mediations out there that a neurologist can prescribe to help with the symptoms and pain caused by peripheral neuropathy. Be sure however, that the doctor is fully aware of your liver condition, and/or if you still have hep C. Many medications are harsh for the liver and it is best all doctors in your medical team know your history and liver condition. One of the best ways to relieve peripheral neuropathy, if your body and fatigue allow, is through exercising. This has made my peripheral neuropathy so much more manageable.
Do you experience long-term side effects from hep C treatment?