Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Section Five

Hepatitis C Disease Progression

Many people report few or no symptoms during the acute phase of hepatitis C infection, and the disease often progresses to the chronic stage without detection. Some people with acute hepatitis C, and many more with chronic infection experience flu-like symptoms including fatigue, nausea, fever, headaches, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and muscle or joint pain. Many have elevated liver enzyme (ALT and AST) levels. Over time—years or even decades—people with chronic hepatitis C may develop various symptoms related to fibrosis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer. Chronic hepatitis C infection is also associated with a wide variety of related conditions.

 

Symptoms Reported by People with Hepatitis C

Acute Hepatitis C:

Most people (about 2 out of 3) during the acute stage of hepatitis C have few or no symptoms, but some people (about 1 out of 3) have the following symptoms.

• Flu-like illness

• Fatigue (mild-moderate-severe)

• Fever

• Night sweats

• Loss of appetite (anorexia)

• Diarrhea

• Indigestion or heartburn

• Headaches

• Muscle or joint pain

• Abdominal pain and bloating

 

Chronic Hepatitis C:

People with hepatitis C typically have more of these symptoms the longer they are infected with hepatitis C.

• Fatigue (mild to severe)

• Fever

• Loss of appetite (anorexia)

• Nausea

• Indigestion or heartburn

• Headaches

• Muscle or joint pain

• Abdominal pain

• Depression

• Mood swings

• “Brain fog”

 

Late-Stage Hepatitis with Cirrhosis:

• Fatigue (mild to severe)

• Loss of appetite (anorexia)

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Indigestion or heartburn

• Headaches

• Muscle or joint pain

• Abdominal pain

• Abdominal bloating

• Fluid retention (edema)

• Abdominal fluid accumulation (ascites)

• Frequent urination

• Jaundice

• Bleeding varices

• Depression

• Mood swings

• Cognitive dysfunction

• Lack of concentration

• Mental confusion

• Dizziness

• Peripheral vision problems

• Poor sleep cycles

• Bleeding problems

• Moderate to severe pruritus (itching)

 

Remember: Chronic hepatitis C just means that the virus in the body for longer than 6 months it does not necessarily mean that people will get sick and die. Careful monitoring is the key to staying healthy.

 

Conditions Linked to Hepatitis C

A number of different conditions have been associated with hepatitis C. Some of these are autoimmune conditions, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. Conditions sometimes seen in people with chronic HCV infection include cryoglobulinemia (high levels of a blood protein that settles in the kidneys, skin, and nerve endings), vasculitis (blood vessel damage), Sjögren’s syndrome (characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth), and skin conditions such as lichen planus (characterized by white lesions or bumps) and porphyria cutanea tarda (characterized by a sun-sensitive rash). Other related conditions include certain types of arthritis (joint inflammation), arthralgia (joint pain), and thyroid disease. Treating the underlying cause (hepatitis C infection) is the most common treatment strategy for many of these related conditions.

Many of the serious conditions are associated with late-stage hepatitis C, when the liver is heavily damaged and not able to function properly. However, many people with hepatitis C never develop any of these conditions.

Check with your doctor if you experience these or any other unusual symptoms.

Self-Help Tips: Getting Organized

Getting organized and making sure you have all necessary documents and copies of tests will help you and your medical provider maximize a medical appointment. Keep track of the following tests:

  • HCV viral load (HCV RNA)
  • HCV genotype
  • Results of recent ALT and AST tests
  • Recent complete blood count (CBC)
  • Liver biopsy report
  • Ultrasound and imaging reports
  • Immunization records
  • Any other medical records for other diseases or conditions

 

 

symptoms

 

 Next: Monitoring Hepatitis C

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