The Connection Between Hep C and Type 2 Diabetes
Last updated: December 2021
When you hear the words "hep C", your mind may go straight to your liver health. However, chronic hep C can affect your body in a number of ways, including areas outside of your liver.
One example is the connection between chronic hep C and the risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D).
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where your body struggles to both make enough insulin and to use it well. Insulin has an important job.
It has to move fuel (glucose) from the bloodstream into your body’s cells for energy. When the body struggles to use insulin well, it’s called insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is one of the underlying problems in T2D.1
How is T2D connected to hep C?
People with chronic hep C infections are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, even compared to those with other liver diseases. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes than those without chronic health conditions. This may be because hep C can create insulin resistance in the body.2,3
Issues with having hep c and type 2 diabetes
Having T2D can make treating hep C more difficult. Treatment plans with antivirals may not work as well.
You have a higher chance of your liver health worsening into cirrhosis and a higher chance of developing liver cancers. Insulin resistance by itself might cause increased inflammation and stress in the body, which research has linked to higher disease risks and cancers.4
Lowering your risk of T2D
There are a number of things you can do to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.5,6 Here is a list of just a few:
- Increase your physical activity
- Quit smoking
- Work with your medical team to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in healthy ranges
- Have a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fruits
- Keep your social relationships healthy7
Some of these actions can also lower insulin resistance (for example, exercise). That means not only are you lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes by being more active, but you’re also helping your body fight insulin resistance from chronic hep C.
Finally, all of the actions on this list improve your overall health. In short, you have nothing to lose by adding one or all into your health routines.
A simple blood test can tell you if you have developed T2D or prediabetes (a sign your risk for T2D is very high). Depending on what insurance will cover, this can be a fasting blood test or a hemoglobin A1c.8
Without bloodwork, it may be hard to tell if you have diabetes. In fact, up to 20% of people with diabetes don’t realize they have it.9
After a T2D diagnosis
While there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, there are a number of treatment options, including exercise, nutrition planning, and medications. Most people use a combination of all three.
Ask your primary care provider (PCP) to refer you to local Diabetes Self-Management Training (DSMT) classes, otherwise known as Diabetes Education. There, you will learn how to manage diabetes well, get information on treatment options, and get help creating a personalized plan for you.
This is typically done by diabetes experts called Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES).10