The initial infection with hepatitis C, the time of acute infection when some people experience flu-like symptoms, can result in weight loss due to poor appetite. For the most part, however, those infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) experience no symptoms. This lack of symptoms is why hepatitis C is known as the silent epidemic; it’s also why so many people can be infected for years or even decades without knowing their disease status.
New federal screening guidelines, which urge all Baby Boomers to get a one-time HCV screening test, have made headway in diagnosing the large pool of people who previously did not know they were infected. After diagnosis, these people can access one of many new treatments available based on direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medications. DAAs bring a cure to the majority of patients who take them.
After HCV treatment, patients who previously felt ill recover and this has one unexpected consequence: weight gain. Cured patients who now feel better and eat better sometimes gain weight. This outcome has been seen in men (but not women), according to a poster presentation at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
This poster presentation reported on a single-center retrospective study of 63 HCV patients who were successfully treated with DAA therapy. There was a small but significant weight gain in men, but not women. Specifically, there was an average weight gain in men of nearly 3 pounds. In addition, liver fat also increased in men (but not women).
This post-cure weight gain is something to keep an eye on, especially as greater and greater numbers of people join the ranks of those successfully treated for HCV infection.
Oakes K. Don’t be surprised by weight gain in men after HCV cure. Family Practice News November 15, 2016.