Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide

Joint pain (arthralgia)

Joint pain is common in people with hepatitis C.  Many people do not think of joint pain as a symptom of the infection. The pain may be in one joint or multiple joints. It often affects the small joints, such as the wrists but it can also affect medium or large joints, such as the hip.

The joint pain seen with hepatitis C can sometimes seem like another form of joint disease called rheumatoid arthritis. Having hepatitis C has also been linked to an increased chance of having rheumatoid arthritis.  Several treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can injure the liver, so it is important to know the cause of the pain to determine the best treatment.

Cause

It is unclear exactly how hepatitis C triggers joint pain. One perspective is that when a person gets hepatitis C their immune system responds to fight the virus. The way the immune system activates itself in the joints can cause inflammation and swelling.

Treatment

  • Being treated for and cured of hepatitis C can decrease joint pain or make it go away in some people.
  • If the joint pain is mild your healthcare provider may recommend pain medication to decrease pain and inflammation, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Some people find creams with the pain killer capsaicin are helpful  when applied to the skin over the sore joint
  • If the joint pain does not respond to the pain medication, your healthcare provider may recommend other medication. However some treatments for arthritis can injure the liver and so they should be used with caution in people with hepatitis C

Tips

  • Heat can loosen stiff muscles and joints, bringing relief; cold can reduce swelling and alleviate pain
  • Try to do some gentle exercise regularly. Exercises that are easy on your body include  walking, swimming or cycling
  • Try to move your body by shifting positions or going for short walks throughout the day
  • Avoid smoking as it can lead to more joint pain