NONHEPATIC MANIFESTATIONS AND COMBINED DISEASES IN HCV INFECTION

Infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) may affect not only the liver but also various nonhepatic tissues and organs and may combine with many etiologically unrelated diseases and morbid conditions. Numerous nonhepatic manifestations in HCV infection have been previously reported. For some (eg, cryoglobulinemia), the association is well established. For others, such as sialadenitis and lichen planus, the association is probable (but not completely documented) and, for the remainder, the associations are weak. Extrahepatic manifestations may result from immunological mechanisms as well as virus invasion and replication in the affected extrahepatic tissues and organs. Thyroid abnormalities, primarily Hashimoto's disease, and isolated increases of anti-thyroid antibodies (ATPO) appear to be more frequent in chronic hepatitis C than B or D, with high ATPO titers clustering mainly among females. Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) therapy is associated with development of thyroid dysfunction in 5.5-12.9% of patients, usually exposing preexisting subclinical thyroid abnormalities. Mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) is commonly found (36-45%) in patients with chronic HCV infection; however, only in a minority of cases does it become clinically manifested as systemic vasculitis with purpura, neuropathy, or Raynaud's phenomenon. In a number of patients, MC may terminate in non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma. Treatment of these lymphoproliferative disorders with IFN-alpha is advocated. Idiopathic thrombocytopenia is now recognized more frequently in association with chronic HCV infection and is usually aggravated by IFN-alpha therapy. Patients with porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) have demonstrated serological markers of HCV infection in 62-82% of cases. The usefulness of IFN-alpha in PCT remains to be demonstrated. Lichen planus has also been found in association with chronic HCV infection, particularly when severe or affecting the oral cavity. Other nonhepatic manifestations have also been reported in HCV infection such as diabetes, corneal ulceration, uveitis, and sialadenitis. These manifestations deserve further study and documentation. Finally, markers of autoimmunity occur with high frequency in chronic HCV infection; however, combination with the classical syndrome of autoimmune hepatitis is rare. In the presence of various autoantibodies, the clinical features of chronic hepatitis C do not appear to be modified and, contrary to general perception, IFN-alpha therapy within randomized controlled trials should not be withheld since the response rate to IFN-alpha does not appear to differ in the presence or absence of low titers of these markers.

Author: HADZIYANNIS SJ, HIPPOKRATIO GEN HOSP, ACAD DEPT MED, SCH MED, 114 VAS SOPHIAS AVE, ATHENS 11527, GREECE
Source: DIGESTIVE DISEASES AND SCIENCES 1996 DEC;41(12):S 63-S 74

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