Hepatitis C Virus Ups Diabetes Risk

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More news on the diabetes front. This time it’s about a virus that could put you at risk for type 2 diabetes. We’re talking about the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

 HCV is a virus that’s usually contracted through tainted blood — a blood transfusion or shared needles, for example. Approximately three percent of people around the world are infected with this hepatitis virus. Often, there will be no symptoms until the major symptoms show up. HCV causes liver inflammation, leading to damage. Eventually, this infection can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is contracted through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. These include semen, blood, and saliva. Symptoms of HBV infection can be flu-like or nonexistent. This infection can resolve on its own, but it can also become chronic, leading to the same liver problems as with HCV.

 Now, researchers in Taiwan have found that HCV could also up your risk for type 2 diabetes. The study was population-based. It included 4,958 people age 40 or older without diabetes. Of these, 812 tested positive for HCV. It was also found that 544 of the participants had hepatitis B.

 The participants were followed for seven years. Of the 4,958, 474 people developed diabetes during this time. The researchers found that the participants with HCV were a whopping 70% more likely to develop diabetes. Strangely, the HBV-infected people were found not to be more prone to this metabolic disease.

 Type 2 diabetes is a rapidly growing problem in our country. In 2002, it was estimated that 18.2 million people in the U.S. had diabetes (6.3% of the population).

 Type 2 diabetes is also called “adult onset” diabetes. It is most often found in obese adults. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient insulin, or when the body doesn’t make proper use of the insulin produced. The insulin hormone is instrumental in providing the body with the energy needed to perform vital functions. Unless properly managed, diabetes can lead to many complications. These include heart disease, nerve damage, kidney problems, and blindness.

 The Chinese researchers in this study found that the chance of diabetes was increased even more in younger HCV sufferers. And being overweight or obese made them about three times more prone to diabetes. All of these are reasons for diabetes testing in HCV patients, especially in younger sufferers or in those with a weight problem.