HCV Infection May Increase Risk of Cataracts

Could there be a link between hepatitis C (HCV) and cataract development? According to a recent study, this may be true.

A team of researchers conducted a population-based study with 11,652 HCV-infected patients for just over five years. All participants were registered with the National Health Insurance (NHI) database of Taiwan and were matched against a control group of correlating age and gender.

The research team found that the HCV-infected patients were 1.36 times more likely to develop cataracts than non-HCV infected patients. Interestingly, patients who were undergoing a specific treatment with interferon-ribavirin therapy were at the greatest risk of developing cataracts. Using interferon-ribavirin therapy to treat HCV almost doubled the risk for developing cataracts compared to patients who were not infected with HCV. After the research was compiled, the researchers did not discourage the use of interferon-ribavirin therapy even though this treatment increased risk of cataract development.

The team defended their position in not discouraging the use of interferon-ribavirin therapy by writing, “Considering the surgical curability of cataract and serious HCV infection-related morbidity, we do not discourage the use of anti-HCV therapy for HCV-infected patients. Instead, we recommend routine screening of these HCV patients for ocular problems, especially those who received interferon alpha–ribavirin therapy.”

The exact connection between these two seemingly unrelated conditions still remains to be seen. What the research suggests is that HCV increases oxidative stress, which can affect multiple body systems. Cataract development is also linked to oxidative stress. However, there are very few studies that link these two conditions, so further research will need to be completed (Source: Hepatitis News Today).

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