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Keywords:

  • hair loss;
  • hepatitis C;
  • interferon alpha;
  • lichen planus;
  • pruritus

Abstract

Background  Several controversies exist regarding the relationship between hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and some cutaneous manifestations, lichen planus (LP) in particular.

Objectives  To determine the prevalence of LP and other cutaneous manifestations in a cohort of patients infected with HCV from low HCV endemic area of Slovenia, to correlate findings with chosen biological variables and to assess the role of interferon (IFN)-based treatment of HCV infection in cutaneous manifestations.

Methods  A total of 171 consecutive HCV-seropositive patients and 171 HCV-seronegative age- and gender-matched controls were studied prospectively. Prevalence of cutaneous manifestations, comparison between study patients and controls and correlation of skin findings with demographic, biochemical, virological and liver histologic findings as well as IFN-based therapy were assessed.

Results  Overall presence of LP in HCV-seropositives was 2.3%; although LP was not found in controls, the difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.123). Significantly higher than in controls was the prevalence of pruritus (31.0%, P < 0.001), dry skin (16.4%, P < 0.001) and hair loss (9.9%, P < 0.001). In IFN-based treatment naïves, skin findings were more frequent compared with controls, but not significantly, with no correlation to chosen biological variables. Current IFN-based treatment was significantly connected to pruritus (P < 0.001) and dry skin (P < 0.001). Compared with treatment naïves, in post-treated patients pruritus (odds ratio, 19.13; 95% confidence interval, 6.85–53.42; P < 0.001), dry skin (odds ratio, 4.21; 95% confidence interval, 1.44–12.31; P < 0.001) and hair loss (P < 0.001) were significantly more common.

Conclusions  LP was not significantly related to HCV infection. Prevalence of pruritus, dry skin and hair loss was significantly higher in post-compared with pre-treated patients. The role of IFN in post-treatment persistence of skin manifestations needs to be assessed.