Hepatitis C is a viral disease that affects the liver. The liver is an organ in the human body that converts everything you eat or drink into nutrients and gets rid of toxins. There is a connection between hepatitis C and kidney disease. Hepatitis C can cause kidney disease, and sometimes kidney patients can get hepatitis C from hemodialysis, a treatment for kidney failure, if a medical facility does not carefully follow guidelines for infection control.

Hepatitis C and acute kidney injury

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is when your kidneys stop working suddenly, over a very short period of time. Usually your kidneys will start working again, if the cause for the acute kidney injury is treated quickly. Sometimes hepatitis C can cause AKI, but this does not happen very often.

Hepatitis C is connected to AKI because:

  • Hepatitis C can cause vasculitis. Vasculitis is the inflammation (swelling) of blood vessels, arteries and veins. If the blood vessels of your kidneys get inflamed (swollen), this can cause acute kidney injury.
  • In a few rare cases, some medicines for hepatitis C were connected to an increased chance of having AKI.

Hepatitis C and chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when there is lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. Sometimes hepatitis C can cause CKD, but this does not happen very often.

Hepatitis C is connected to CKD because:

  • Hepatitis C can cause a type of kidney disease called glomerulonephritis. Your kidneys are made up of thousands of tiny filters called glomeruli. Glomerulonephritis is the inflammation (swelling) of the kidney filters (glomeruli), which causes permanent damage. When your kidney filters are damaged, this can lead to chronic kidney disease.
  • When you have hepatitis C, you have a higher chance of getting diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure.

Since there is a connection between hepatitis C and kidney disease, doctors recommended that patients with hepatitis C be tested for kidney disease every year.

  • If you have hepatitis C and kidney disease, your health may be worse than kidney patients without hepatitis C.
  • Having hepatitis C can lead to a faster progression of CKD into kidney failure compared to people without hepatitis C.

This is why getting tested and treated for hepatitis C is so important for your health.