Hepatitis C and Psoriasis: What's The Connection?
Last updated: July 2023
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that shows up on the skin. The disease essentially speeds up the skin cells’ growth cycle and creates patchy red scales and skin on the body. These patches are most often seen on the scalp, elbows, knees, bottoms of feet, palms of hands, face, and lower back areas. However, they can be seen almost anywhere, including inside the mouth or under fingernails and toenails.
For those with psoriasis, the skin problem often appears as red patches and may be itchy. They may lead to skin flakes or sensitive skin when the upper layers of skin slough off. This can lead to insecurities in those who suffer from psoriasis as the skin flakes, the skin reddens, or feeling the need to scratch the itchy scales can be unsightly to others.
What is the connection between hepatitis C and psoriasis?
There is no definitive connection between the two. However, some researchers and doctors believe that stress on the body due to hepatitis C can awaken the symptoms of psoriasis in those who are predisposed to it. This does not mean that someone with psoriasis has an undiagnosed case of hepatitis C!
Instead, it simply means that there are some people who are genetically predisposed to psoriasis who may not show any symptoms. If those people become exposed to the hepatitis C virus, their bodies will begin to fight the virus. This fight, along with future medications to help eradicate the virus from the body, can be very taxing on the body. When the body is overworked, the symptoms of psoriasis may begin to be present.
I have both hepatitis C and psoriasis: what do I do?
Those who experience itchy patches of skin may attempt to self-diagnose their problem as psoriasis. However, eczema or allergic reactions to foods or fragrances may be the true culprit. If you are struggling with your skin, it is best to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or a dermatologist in order to receive a proper diagnosis. The doctor can then assess what your skin needs in order to heal and to minimize the symptoms of your ailment as quickly and as safely as possible.
In some cases, this means the use of creams or foams that are topical and can be used directly on the skin where the symptoms are occurring. In other cases, medications that may include steroids are recommended to combat the body’s reactions that are causing the skin symptoms. Only your doctor can tell you what your body needs and be able to answer questions pertaining to your specific symptoms and goals.
Those who believe they may have been exposed to hepatitis C should seek diagnosis as soon as possible. Many doctors, clinics, or wellness centers are able to provide a blood test to determine whether there is the presence of the hepatitis C virus in your body. Doctors will be able to provide a diagnosis both to whether you have been exposed to the virus and to whether your body is currently struggling with the virus. Based on this information, your doctor will be able to advise you on what treatment options are available and appropriate for you.
If I have one, how do I avoid the other?
Having psoriasis does not mean you automatically will have hepatitis C. In fact, hepatitis C is a virus which can be transmitted through only a few methods. This means that using preventative measures can help to keep you from being exposed to the virus. These methods include not using IV drugs, getting tattooed only at licensed facilities, using Universal Precautions when interacting with needles or blood, and testing negative if you have received blood or a blood product before 1992. Using the same precautions that the general population uses can keep you from being exposed to the hepatitis C virus and no specific additional preventative behaviors are required based on your having psoriasis.
Having hepatitis C can make you more susceptible to psoriasis and, at the present time, there is no known way to prevent your body from this if you are already predisposed to it. However, you can always take the time to do regular skin checks. This can be done before or after bathing, simply by observing yourself in the mirror without clothing and by moving hair around to look for red scaly patches of skin. If you discover such, it may be beneficial to seek treatment with your doctor or dermatologist as beginning treatment quickly may help your body to treat the symptoms before they increase.1-6