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What is the Connection Between Hepatitis C and Alcohol?

Article Details
  • Written By: Dave Slovak
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Hepatitis C and alcohol are the two main causes of liver disease and also often cause cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Although it is common for individuals with a history of alcoholism to develop Hepatitis C, there is no direct causal relationship between the two. The only way that a person can contract Hepatitis C is by being infected with the Hepatitis C virus, which is not a direct result of drinking. On the other hand, chronic heavy drinking can lead to what some people call Alcoholic Hepatitis, which is much different from Hepatitis C, but may confuse some people into thinking that alcoholism causes Hepatitis C.

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Another reason that many people mistakenly think Hepatitis C and alcohol have a causal relationship is that individuals with a history of long-term or lifetime alcoholism have a history of making poor health and lifestyle choices, such as intravenous (IV) use of drugs and having unprotected sex with multiple partners. These behaviors are common ways that Hepatitis C spreads because it is a blood-born disease. IV drug users often share needles and therefore risk coming into contact with blood cells containing the Hepatitis C virus, which is the same issue with people having unprotected sexual intercourse. Prior to changes in medical procedures in the early 1990s, many individuals contracted Hepatitis C from blood transfusions and organ transplants as well. Additionally, some individuals are born with Hepatitis C because their mothers were infected with the virus.

Some people trivialize the risk of contracting Hepatitis C, but unfortunately, it is a very prevalent disease, with several hundred million people infected worldwide. In fact, it is one of the most common blood-born diseases in the world and accounts for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. One of the reasons people downplay the impact Hepatitis C has on people is that the symptoms are often masked or go unnoticed. Furthermore, there are pharmaceutical-based treatments that have fairly high success rates, with about 50% of patients being cured of the disease. Other treatment methods, such as transplanting the liver, are unsuccessful in eradicating Hepatitis C, and it quickly returns and infects the new liver.

One thing is certain about Hepatitis C and alcohol: using alcohol after having been diagnosed with Hepatitis C puts one at a greater risk for liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Most experts claim that individuals with Hepatitis C who do not consume alcohol are at less risk of these diseases. It is safe to say that Hepatitis C and alcohol don’t mix well.

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