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A pair of lungs is partially covered by a liver, which seems to be transferring its red color onto the lungs.

Respiratory Manifestations and Hepatitis C

Although most of the focus with hep C is around the effect it has on the liver, there are other conditions that are called extrahepatic manifestations (EHM). As if we did not have enough to consider when we receive a chronic hep c diagnosis, I am in no way trying to scare or frighten anyone. While the condition or status of liver fibrosis is a good indicator of the advancement of hep C, it is not the whole story. There is research that has been underway for many years looking at the impact on systems outside the liver and there is evidence that points to a number of these EHM.

The connection between hepatitis C and the respiratory system

For the purpose of this article, we will look at the pulmonary effects that have been seen in study and in community by those of us engaged in peer support, education, and navigation for people at risk, living with hep C, and those cured. The latter is based on anecdotal evidence, but in no way does that mean it is not at all valid. There is science in the form of scientific evidence that points to a higher incidence of pulmonary conditions in adults with chronic hep C.

Hep C and COPD

In community, I have heard from several peers (others with hep C) who are living with a COPD diagnosis and are engaged in care for it. What I am unsure of is the number and frequency of people overall, including those who are not necessarily being treated for the illness and do not even have a diagnosis. This is not surprising to me, considering that the focus is almost entirely about the liver when people are diagnosed with hep C. This does not mean that the liver is not an important or even central issue that should be addressed with a hep C diagnosis, but we need to be aware of the other, and serious manifestations that can occur when we are living with hep C, past or present.

What the research shows

Environmental factors also contribute as a cause of COPD, as most of us are aware. You may not have any significant indicators/symptoms of lung problems like COPD, but you may want to ask your doctor about some testing, because with hep C, you may be at greater risk and it is worth pursuing according to the data and the anecdotal evidence.

We need more study of extrahepatic conditions in people affected by hep C. However, there is emerging science and evidence that confirms what we have been seeing in community for years. To quote from one study: “Studies on the prevalence of COPD in patients with HCV are also scant.”1

For the science nerds, this is a good read, and if you have any interest in following up with your own status, please consult your medical team, as always. Be sure to click on PDF to see full review, if interested.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Mekov E. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Hepatitis C. Folia Medica. 2017;59(2):132-138.$002ffolmed$002f59$002f2$002farticle-p132.xml. Accessed November 30, 2019.