The only effective way to target mental side effects after hepatitis C treatment
Ever since new treatments for hepatitis C have been released in the market, the curing rates have improved to a great extent, reaching more than 90 percent. However, patients often experience ongoing mental side effects after the treatments.
According to an article published on Oxford Academic, 30%-80% of hepatitis C patients undergoing treatments experienced some forms of psychiatric side effects, with fatigue and depression affecting up to 80% and 50% of the patient population respectively.
The most worrying part is that even after the hepatitis C virus is cleared, the side effects still persist, affecting patients’ expectation of an after-treatment life. According to an interview conducted by Centre for Social Research in Health of University of New South Wales with patients who are cleared of hepatitis C, the patients reported that they felt a lack of support from their physicians after the treatment was completed, despite the fact that they still did not feel fully recovered.
What are the common mental problems experienced?
Patients who are cleared of hepatitis C often have the following ongoing mental problems after the treatments:
- Memory loss (forgetfulness)
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty in socialising
- Cognitive impairments like “brain fog”
Not only do these problems affect patients’ quality of life, they also put a financial burden on them, for examples, having to take antidepressants and the inability to work full-time.
The virus is cleared, but why do the mental side effects still stay?
To tackle this problem, we must first understand the link between the liver and the brain.
Western point of view
The relationship between liver health and brain health has long been documented. According to an article published in Journal of Hepatology titled “Liver-induced inflammation hurts the brain”, peripheral inflammation can have long-lasting consequences on brain health for hepatitis C patients. Even though the communication pathways between the liver and the brain are still not fully understood, it has become increasingly evident that chronic liver diseases do not just affect the liver, but also the brain.
Eastern point of view
In Chinese medical theory, the brain is not considered as a single organ, but rather its functions are scattered over the whole body. Therefore brain problems are often regarded as systemic diseases instead of diseases of the brain itself. And the liver is often regarded as the organ responsible for the smooth flow of emotions. When the liver is not in a good shape, it affects the mental effects of the brain.
That is to say, the persisting mental side effects suggest that the liver is not fully healed. Despite the fact that the new treatments remove the virus, the years of damage done to the liver before are still present. To treat mental side effects of hepatitis C-cleared patients, we must start from the root cause of the problem, and that is a malfunctioning liver.
Treating mental side effects from the liver
While some patients might feel much better immediately a few weeks after the treatments, for some other people, the end of hepatitis C treatment might mean the start of other treatment plans to heal a damaged liver. Patients should continue to nourish the body, especially the liver, by eating a healthy and nutritious diet. Stop drinking any alcohol as alcohol can interfere with the process of liver health recovery. Start doing regular exercise – no matter the length and the frequency. In short, by caring for the liver and giving necessary protection to it, patients should gradually see the mental side effects going away and get closer to the road to complete recovery.
- Hepatitis C.net, https://hepatitisc.net/living/aftercare-what-happens-after-treatment-ends/, (Accessed Date: 2018-08-20)
- Centre for Social Research in Health, https://csrh.arts.unsw.edu.au/media/CSRHFile/8_Recovery_from_hepatitis_C_treatments.pdf, (Accessed Date: 2018-08-20)
- Journal of Hepatology, https://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(11)00802-6/pdf, (Accessed Date: 2018-08-20)
- American Physiological Society, https://www.physiology.org/doi/10.1152/ajpgi.00184.2011, (Accessed Date: 2018-08-20)
- TCM World, https://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/the-five-major-organ-systems/tcm-lifestyle-wisdom-for-liver-health/, (Accessed Date: 2018-08-20)
- Oxford Academic, https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/57/suppl_2/S111/3956476, (Accessed Date: 2018-08-20)
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.