The hepatitis C virus (HCV), while certainly an equal opportunity virus, presents some unique health risks for infected women. Let’s start with some good news for women: they are more likely to clear this virus than men, meaning that even if exposed to HCV, more women than men are able to fight off the virus and never develop a chronic infection. In addition, there are fewer women than men with HCV in the United States overall.
Also in the good news category is the fact that liver damage (fibrosis and cirrhosis) tends to progress more slowly in women than in men. Researchers suspect that estrogen could help protect women from liver damage, in which case, the liver risks could rise again after menopause.
Now, let’s get to the bad news (beyond having a life-threatening disease in the first place). Infections with HCV can negatively impact a woman’s reproductive years. Women with HCV can experience lower fertility, as well as more miscarriages and menopause that comes earlier than it would have otherwise. Identification of the HCV infection followed by effective treatment may be able to take away these risks.
A recent study in the Journal of Hepatology tracked 100 women with hepatitis C infections and compared them to 100 healthy women. Those with HCV entered menopause at an earlier age. Additionally, the hepatitis C group was at a 9.4-fold increased likelihood of experiencing a miscarriage. After successful treatment of the infection; however, the subsequent chance of miscarriage lowered significantly, which can be heartening to women who are being treated and hope to have children in the future. Further research has noted a correlation in HCV-infected women with gestational diabetes and premature births. Women with untreated HCV have a 4-6% chance of passing on the HCV infection to their unborn children.
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy is a leader in specialty pharmacies for treating hepatitis C. We are here and ready to work with patients and their health care providers to treat this infection, so women (and men) can get back to living their lives.