Researchers have consistently shown that there is a 30% increase in those with hepatitis C to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
The way that hepatitis C (also known as “hep C”) works is that it connects to the RNA within a person’s blood and replicates. This then leads to an infection which is often chronic. The overall effects of hep C on the body varies based on a number of factors, including the length of time between infection and the beginning of treatment, the immune system of the infected person, and whether there are any other medical concerns being experienced by that specific person’s body.
The current theory is that the body’s focus on battling the hepatitis C infection allows it to be vulnerable to inflammation elsewhere in the body, including within cytokines or pathogens which can lead to Parkinson’s disease. This theory shows potential as there are also researchers who are finding a link between hepatitis C and dementia, which is another degenerative condition (specifically of the brain).
If I have one, does it mean I am guaranteed to get the other?
Researchers currently do not have a definitive answer as to why exactly there is such a strong correlation between hepatitis C and Parkinson’s disease. This means that it is currently unknown whether there is an obvious or guaranteed link between the two or whether there are other factors that must be present in order for the two illnesses to coexist.
However, as current research suggests, the numbers are approximately 30% of people with hepatitis C become diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That said, there is certainly no guarantee that having hepatitis C will definitely result in being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the future.
In addition, there is now research that having Parkinson’s disease will result in a later diagnosis of having hepatitis C. However, each human body is different.
You should speak with your doctor if you believe you should be tested for any illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease and hepatitis C.
How can I protect myself against each of these?
Currently, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself against the risk of a future Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. The illness itself is a degeneration of the brain, which alters aspects that allow for motor function within the body to properly understand the cues and signals between the brain and the body.
Although research is mixed as to whether brain puzzles, games, or other activities that are advertised to help keep the brain “in shape” actually provide any sort of protection against degenerative brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, researchers continue to study the illnesses. This means that hopefully in the near future, there will be more information regarding prevention, treatment, and cures.
Protecting yourself against hepatitis C is different. We do know the ways in which infections typically occur, which are primarily linked to the sharing of blood. Avoid sharing needles, avoid direct exposure to blood and blood products, avoid sharing personal care items, pick tattoo and piercing parlors carefully, and use protection while engaging in sexual acts – all ways to provide your body with a lot of protection against exposure to hepatitis C.
If you are struggling with an IV drug addiction and want to get help, your local healthcare clinic is likely able to assist you directly or refer you to someone who can help. You may choose to seek out clean needles (if you are not interested in ending your IV drug use), which will minimize your risks. You may also decide to seek treatment to stop using IV drugs. Whatever you decide, there are local clinics and toll-free phone numbers that are available to help guide you to the proper people to meet your needs.
There are nonjudgmental people who are available to help you to understand your options, related to both your personal goals and to help you navigate financial concerns regarding obtaining treatment.
If you are uncertain whether you may have been exposed to hepatitis C or think you may be infected, your local clinic or your health insurance company can help you to find a testing facility in your area. While it may be scary to be tested and find out the results, this information will allow you and your doctor to know whether you need to begin treatment for hepatitis C, as well as what prevention and protection efforts can be introduced into your life in order to keep you as healthy as possible now and into the future.
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Tsai, H.-H. et al. "Hepatitis C Virus Infection As A Risk Factor For Parkinson Disease: A Nationwide Cohort Study". Neurology (2015): n. pag. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
Wu WY, et al. "Hepatitis C Virus Infection: A Risk Factor For Parkinson's Disease. - Pubmed - NCBI". Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.