HCV sufferers and the impacts of antiviral treatments


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is associated with musculoskeletal problems such as chronic widespread pain, sicca syndrome, polyarthritis, and a reduced health-related quality of life (HRQOL).


HCV’s extra hepatic manifestations and a reduced HRQOL often develop before hepatic impairment. This means that people presenting with extra hepatic manifestations may not be aware that they have HCV. HCV is asymptomatic and sufferers may show no indications of having the infectious disease. This understanding of associated HCV illnesses helps to uncover people with underlying HCV.


People with HCV suffer with numerous problems lowering their HRQOL. These include psychosocial problems, mood related changes and somatic symptoms. Similarly, arthralgia and myalgia are also among the symptoms associated with HCV.


Recently, ground-breaking experiments have been carried out to investigate changes in HCV symptoms and HRQOL before and after antiviral treatment.


The investigation was carried out by asking 118patients to fill out a questionnaire before and after pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment.


The aims were:


·      To find out whether the treatment helped HCV sufferers and improved their conditions.


·      To investigate whether HRQOL improves following antiviral therapy.


·      To determine whether an association exists between extrahepatic symptoms and HRQOL before and after treatment.


The results found that HCV sufferers who underwent treatment found a significant improvement in 6 out of the 12 domains of the questionnaire. These were: physical functioning, physical disability, social functioning, limitations and health distress due to hepatitis, general health and chronic widespread pain. However, sicca syndrome only fell marginally and there was no improvement in mental health and positive well-being.


On the whole, it is clear that HCV antiviral treatments significantly improve poor HRQOL and chronic widespread pain. It has been proved that symptomatic improvement via antiviral treatment does exist for patients.


Therefore, antiviral therapy with pegylated interferon and ribavirin can improve physical and functional aspects of HRQOL and pain scores in HCV patients.


However, a drawback to this experiment is a lack of matched control groups not undergoing antiviral treatment. To improve the reliability of the results, the experiment would need a larger study participation with controls and longer follow-ups.


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