What does quality of life mean to you? Is it your health, happiness, financial security, spiritual wellness, or social well-being? It usually means different things to different people. In healthcare, researchers use surveys to measure the quality of life related to health, abbreviated as HRQOL. When applied to hepatitis C, HRQOL is an important concern.
According to research, HRQOL is generally lower for those living with hep C. In a study published by Yamini and colleagues (Tobacco and Other Factors Have a Negative Impact on Quality Of Life in Hepatitis C Patients; Journal of Viral Hepatitis October 2011), hep C patients reported reduced quality of life. Hep C negatively affected patients physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Reduced quality of life is a global problem. An Italian study conducted by Umberto Cillo and colleagues, found similar findings. (Hepatitis C Virus Adversely Affects Quality of Life; Blood Purification 2011) Comparing patients with alcoholic liver disease to patients with alcoholic liver disease and hep C, Cillo showed that having hep C negatively affects quality of life.
The list goes on. Multiple studies from all over the world found that hep C patients have problems with fatigue, depression, sexual function, neurocognitive problems (impaired concentration and attention problems) and sleep disturbances.
For many, quality of life is a significant factor when making decisions about hepatitis C treatment. Patients want to know if they are going to get back a better quality of life in exchange for a temporarily reduced one possibly caused by the side effects of the hepatitis C medications. In short, should they stick with what they have, or go through treatment in order to improve their health?
If you have extensive liver damage, such stage 3 fibrosis or stage 4 cirrhosis, the motivation to undergo hep C treatment may be clear. However, what quality of life issues might you need to consider when weighing the risks and rewards of treatment if you have mild-to-moderate fibrosis? Multiple researchers have found various improvements, such as those discussed in the HCV Guidelines provided by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), in collaboration with the International Antiviral Society–USA (IAS–USA). Some benefits you may gain from successful hep C treatment:
- May prevent progression to diabetes in patients with prediabetes who have hepatitis C and may reduce renal and cardiovascular complications in patients with established diabetes who have hepatitis C
- Less fatigue
- Reduced transmission risk – For me, this was the greatest single benefit I gained after I was cured. Removing this burden improved my quality of life immensely.
Another compelling reason is that successful treatment reduces mortality from all causes, not just liver-related ones. (El-Kamary S, Jhaveri R, Shardell M – All-Cause, Liver-Related, and Non–Liver-Related Mortality among HCV-Infected Individuals in the General US Population; Clinical Infectious Disease July 2011)
From time to time, I ask people who had a sustained response to treatment if they can tell the difference. The response is always the same. They glow when they tell me, “You have no idea how good it feels.” It was all I needed in order to go forward with treatment. And yes, it feels really good to be cured.