Hepatitis C is a kind of infection that’s caused by a hepatitis C virus that normally attacks the liver. This condition usually progresses slowly and shows a few symptoms or signs for decades. This is the reason most cases of this disease go undiagnosed for many years.
In most cases, this condition is discovered when someone is undergoing a routine checkup or when they try to give blood and it’s screened for hepatitis C virus. However, most people live this virus for many years without knowing. In such a case, the disease is discovered when chronic liver disease symptoms like liver cancer and cirrhosis finally set in.
Since most people are always checking hepatitis C FAQs to know about its symptoms, some of the common symptoms of acute and chronic hepatitis C have been mentioned below:
Acute HCV infection
HCV infection starts when one is exposed to the virus, and this phase is known as acute or short-term HCV. Acute HCV doesn’t have many symptoms, and its infection develops 2 to 26 weeks after an exposure to the virus. Most people who have this infection develop symptoms like abdominal pain, jaundice and flu-like symptoms (muscles aches, fatigue, and nausea). The symptoms disappear in a few weeks, and the acute illness lasts typically for 2 to 12 weeks.
Chronic HCV infection
Short-term HCV can become chronic or long-term, and this occurs when the virus is detected six or more months after the first infection. Chronic HCV also affects people without causing apparent symptoms, whether the liver is being damaged or not. However, symptoms can worsen if the virus is causing significant liver damage although it takes many years or decades. Symptoms of chronic HCV include the following.
- Fatigue – This is one of the most common hepatitis C symptoms. You will feel extremely tired and lack energy; these feelings do not go away when you sleep, making it very difficult to handle the situation. Most doctors think that this is caused by the impaired immune system, stress, and pain. Other studies suggest that fatigue occurs because the body is fighting the infections that are not going away. Fatigue might also occur because of a liver injury.
- Nausea and vomiting – Since your liver is not working properly, waste products will start to build up in the blood, and this will cause nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain – You can experience tenderness or mild discomfort on the right side of the abdomen. This is where the liver is located.
- Fever – This is another common symptom that is often persistent. Your internal body temperature will rise to levels that are considered above normal. The fever may be accompanied by shivering, feeling cold when it isn’t cold, and lack of appetite, sleepiness, sweating, and depression.
- Itching – When your liver isn’t working properly, you will experience a sense of itchiness.
- Jaundice – Normally, an inflamed liver cannot work well, and this leads to the buildup of a waste product known as bilirubin, which causes the eyes and skin to turn into a yellowish color.
- Joint and muscle pain – Since waste products are building up in your blood due to liver malfunction, your body parts like the muscles and joints may start aching.
- Dark urine – If you are infected by HCV, your urine might start to appear dark brown, resembling the color of coffee.
- Swollen ankles or abdomen – Once cirrhosis of the liver occurs, your kidneys will start to retain water and salt. This will eventually cause your abdomen and ankles to swell. Commonly, it will appear as edema, a buildup of excess fluid around the ankles and feet or abdomen.
- Bruising – You might start to bruise easily when you are infected with HCV.
Since hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood exposure, it is important to know that there isn’t a specific contagious period. When a person develops chronic hepatitis C, their blood will carry the virus, and it will be contagious to others throughout their life unless such a person is cured of the condition. Therefore, it is safe to say the contagious period for hepatitis C is not known. The incubation period for people who are infected with this virus isn’t known either. However, some of them show certain hepatitis C symptoms 6 to 10 weeks after being infected.
Research has shown that when you get early treatment for acute HCV, you can prevent chronic liver disease. So, if you think you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus or you are experiencing any of these outlined symptoms linked with hepatitis C, be sure to visit your doctor. He or she will help you know whether yours is a short-term or long-term infection. Make sure you discuss your hepatitis C symptoms including any changes, with the doctor; this will help them determine how to treat you or if the treatment needs to be changed.