Skin rashes, bumps, itching, dry or discolored skin can be common symptoms of hepatitis C or one of the hep C treatments. These skin conditions can be some of the first signs of hepatitis C. In the early stages of hepatitis C, one may be asymptomatic, thus these skin symptoms can be early signs that liver damage has begun, and when noticed, a doctor should be consulted and testing considered. The skin manifestations may disappear after the appropriate HCV treatment is completed or viral clearance is achieved.
Itching is often the result of a buildup of toxins in the blood that can cause jaundice and/or dry itchy skin on the hands, feet, or all over the body. Some prescription medicines can ease the itching, or antihistamines, moisturizers, and cortisone creams can bring relief.1
Lichen planus is indicated by purplish bumps, often on the wrist, but often found elsewhere (for example, as sores or patches in the mouth). Steroids can provide relief and ease the redness and swelling, light therapy may clear the skin, and retinoic acid pills or ointment and creams are used for eczema.
Necrolytic acral erythema
Necrolytic acral erythema (NEA) is a rare skin irritation that causes patches on the hands or feet resembling psoriasis. It can be an early sign of hepatitis C and can is often cleared using zinc supplements.2
Porphyria cutanea tarda
Porphyria cutanea tarda (PTC) is the result of proteins, known as prophyrins, that build up in the liver and travel through the bloodstream to the skin causing painful blisters. It is exasperated by sunshine. It can cause a lightening or darkening of the skin, scarring, hair loss, and excess facial hair. It is treated through procedures to remove phlebotomies from the blood that bring porphyrin and iron levels down or through medicine that flush it through urination. Anyone with this condition should use sunscreen if outside and try to avoid direct sunlight.
Pupura (blood spots) hurt or itch and can be very small or up to a half-inch in size. For those infected with hepatitis C, it is often caused by cryoglobulinemia; This is triggered when the proteins in the blood stream thicken in colder weather and block or imped the flow of the blood. The symptom is usually treated with steroids.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is also initiated when cold temperatures cause blood vessels to spasm and the blood flow slows. Fingers, or other extremities, ears, toes nose turn white or blue, resulting in pain, numbness and tingling. To minimize the risk, your doctor may recommend avoiding the cold, stopping smoking, and reducing stress. Your doctor may have medication that will provide some relief.3
Spider angiomas (Spider Nevi) are dilated blood vessels near the skin surface that can appear elsewhere but are most common on the face and trunk. They are not harmful and require no treatment, but are considered aesthetically displeasing.
Terry’s Nails is a condition where the finger nails become an opaque white color with reddish brown or pink lines at the top; This is linked to cirrhosis.4-7
Urticaria are itchy welts often called hives. Unlike allergic reactions that can cause hives, such as bee stings, in those infected with hepatitis C urticaria lasts more than a few hours and leaves a trace brown stain. Hives are treated with antihistamines
These skin symptoms can be caused by hepatitis C, the ensuing liver problems, or the treatments used to eradicate it. In other cases the symptom may have nothing to do with the disease, thus it’s hard to self-diagnose the exact cause of a skin problem. If an unusual skin condition does appear it is best to consult a physician who will be able to determine if its related to hep C, and if you haven’t been, if you should be tested and can recommend an over the counter treatment or provide a prescription to clear it up.