How Does Hepatitis C Affect Skin?

Hepatitis C is a common viral infection of the liver and approximately 4.1 million Americans are known to suffer from this condition.(1)

If left untreated, hepatitis C can even lead to liver failure.

How Does Hepatitis C Affect Skin?

Skin rashes, bumps, or itchy spots signal hepatitis C virus infection and should not be left untreated. They can also be due to liver damage or side effects of Hepatitis C virus infection treatment.

Along with affecting the liver, hepatitis C affects other parts of the body including the skin.

Skin Rashes and Lesions with Hepatitis C

Not every patient with hepatitis C infection has the same symptoms. At times those suffering from acute hepatitis C do not even know they have it as there are no noticeable symptoms.

But, an undiagnosed acute hepatitis C case can develop into a chronic hepatitis case.

Skin problems occur in hepatitis C when the liver doesn’t function properly and filtering out toxins and protein is not effective. These toxins build-up in the liver, move to the bloodstream, and impact the skin in many ways.

People develop a rash as a result of infection or the treatment they are taking for it.

Urticaria and hives are the common rashes that affect people with hepatitis C. There might be red or skin-toned bumps or welts localized on a certain area or spread across a wider area of the body. The skin may get itchy or swollen due to urticaria.

Some people develop lesions or sores at the places where medications are injected. About 60 percent of people experience it and fortunately, these reactions are just temporary.

Other signs of hepatitis C on the skin are:

  • General itchy skin
  • Lichen Planus: In this, the skin develops purple or reddish-purple flat bumps in a variety of places in the body including skin, mouth, genitalia, hair follicles, and nails.
  • Blisters and sensitive skin occurs as a result of porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT)
  • Spider angioma, which shows up as a spiderweb of thin blood vessels spreading across the skin
  • Necrolytic acral erythema, a series of discolored skin plaques, that are the rare early sigh of hepatitis C

Signs on the Skin Due to End-Stage Liver Disease

Over the years hepatitis C can lead to long-term liver damage or permanent scarring known as cirrhosis. There might be some signs evident on the skin that includes:

  • Itchy rashes
  • Bruises on skin
  • Palmer erythema i.e. redness on palms
  • The yellowness of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • A rash can indicate severe liver damage. Other accompanying symptoms may include stomach swelling and unstoppable bleeding.

Rashes from Treatment of Hepatitis C

Treatment of hepatitis C can also lead to rashes and most commonly when anti-hepatitis medications are injected. These rashes develop as a sign of irritation.

Cold packs and hydrocortisone creams can help in giving relief from itchiness and discomfort caused by these rashes.

If the rashes develop in places other than the injection site, it can be due to a reaction to the medication. In such a case, the doctor giving treatment should be informed immediately.

Treatment and Prevention of Rashes

The treatment of hepatitis C virus rash depends on the exact cause.

The common course of treatment of rashes due to acute hepatitis C infection is to treat them with antihistamines and topical ointments.

Chronic hepatitis C rashes are more challenging to treat. The rashes caused by hepatitis C treatment can be decreased by switching the medications.

The intensity of the rashes can be decreased by:

  • Limiting sun exposure
  • Applying skin lotions
  • Taking a cool bath or lukewarm bath
  • Using skin moisturizers or unscented soaps

Whether the skin rashes are due to disease or the medication, it is best to consult a doctor. Sometimes there can be a rash with no relation to hepatitis C.

A doctor can be the best person to diagnose the condition and direct you to the right treatment.

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