Objectives: Recent interest has been expressed in rheumatic manifestations in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected populations. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and characteristics of the musculoskeletal manifestations and serological markers of autoimmunity in HCV-infected patients in Israel.
Methods: Ninety anti-HCV-positive patients were consecutively interviewed and examined. The prevalence of autoantibodies and their association with rheumatologic symptoms were also determined.
Results: Rheumatic manifestations were found in 28 subjects (31%), and included arthralgias (9%), arthritis (4%), cryoglobulinemia (11%), sicca symptoms (8%), cutaneous vasculitis (2%), polymyositis (1%), and antiphospholipid syndrome (1%). Rheumatic complications were not associated with liver disease severity, or subjects' gender. In addition, myalgia was reported by 22 patients (24%), and fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 14 (16%). Sixty-nine percent of the patients had at least one autoantibody detected in their serum, the most prevalent being rheumatoid factor (RF), 44%; antinuclear antibody (ANA), 38%; and IgM and IgG anticardiolipin antibodies (ac1), 28% and 22%, respectively. The frequency of autoantibodies was not associated with liver disease severity or rheumatic disorders.
Conclusions: Musculoskeletal manifestations and autoimmune markers are common in HCV infection. An investigation of risk factors for HCV infection is pertinent in a patient presenting new rheumatic manifestations and should be included in the history of present illness. Future studies of these disorders may uncover the full spectrum of these associations and provide new insights into their operating mechanisms.