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What are the symptoms of hepatitis C (HCV)?

Most people with hepatitis C don't realize they are infected, and they don't become aware of their infections until liver damage shows up decades later. When symptoms do occur, they include fatigue, fever, nausea or poor appetite, muscle and joint pains and tenderness in the area of the liver. Because most patients have few symptoms, chronic hepatitis C is sometimes described as a silent epidemic.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.
Because hepatitis C can have no symptoms until considerable damage has been done to the liver, up to 75 percent of those infected don’t even know they have the virus. If newly infected people do have symptoms, they can be very ambiguous, such as nausea, poor appetite, fatigue or dark urine. These symptoms are easily mistaken for flu or an upset stomach, so people tend not to seek medical care.
Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the liver, and hepatitis C is a virus that is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact and is normally associated with IV drug use, although it has also been associated with blood transfusions and dirty medical equipment. Unfortunately, hepatitis C infection is commonly asymptomatic and causes symptoms in only approximately 15% of patients. Symptoms of an acute infection are usually very nonspecific and can include fatigue, decreased appetite or weight loss, or muscle and joint aches. If a patient develops chronic hepatitis C, he can develop cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver, and this can lead to a different set of symptoms.

Most people have no symptoms until the virus causes liver damage, which can take 10 or more years to happen. Others have one or more of the following symptoms:

Yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice A longer than usual amount of time for bleeding to stop Swollen stomach or ankles Easy bruising Tiredness Upset stomach Fever Loss of appetite Diarrhea Light-colored stools

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

People with hepatitis C may or may not have symptoms. Symptoms that occur are usually mild or flu-like and can include:
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal pain, fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • fever
  • dark urine, clay-colored stools
  • fatigue
  • itchiness
  • joint pain
If you know you've been exposed to hepatitis C, it's important to get tested. Early diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C can help decrease the risk of severe damage to the liver.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.