Hepatitis C - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of hepatitis C infection?

About 75% of people have no symptoms when they first acquire HCV infection. The remaining 25% may complain of fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches or fever. Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) is rare at this early stage of infection.

Over time, people with chronic infection may begin to experience the effects of the persistent inflammation of the liver caused by the immune reaction to the virus. Blood tests may show elevated levels of liver enzymes, a sign of liver damage, which is often the first suggestion that the infection may be present. Patients may become easily fatigued or complain of nonspecific symptoms.

As cirrhosis develops, symptoms increase and may include:

  • weakness,
  • loss of appetite,
  • weight loss,
  • breast enlargement in men,
  • a rash on the palms,
  • difficulty with the clotting of blood, and
  • spider-like blood vessels on the skin.

In patients with advanced cirrhosis, the liver begins to fail. This is a life-threatening problem. Confusion and even coma (encephalopathy) may result from the inability of the liver to process certain toxic substances.

Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension) may cause fluid to build up in the abdominal cavity (ascites) and result in engorged veins in the swallowing tube (esophageal varices) that tear easily and can bleed suddenly and massively. Portal hypertension also can cause kidney failure or an enlarged spleen resulting in a decrease of blood cells and the development of (anemia), or the development of low platelets (thrombocytopenia), which can promote bleeding.

In advanced cirrhosis, liver failure causes decreased production of clotting factors. Patients with advanced cirrhosis often develop jaundice because the damaged liver is unable to eliminate a yellow compound, called bilirubin that is formed from the hemoglobin of old red blood cells.

Return to Hepatitis C (HCV, Hep C)

See what others are saying

Comment from: karmatrue, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: January 23

I tested reactive for hepatitis C in 2006. I experienced no symptoms since then. When retested in December of 2013, I was told by the doctor that I was positive for the antibodies, but negative for the virus. No one has definitively explained this to me. I wonder if it is because of the quantitative parameters of the test. All my liver enzymes, etc. are in the normal ranges.

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Comment from: Don P, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: March 20

I contracted hepatitis C in the late seventies from IV drug use. I was diagnosed in 1995. I have experienced a lot of symptoms including fatigue, headaches, recurring infections (mostly sinus) and worse allergy symptoms. When I first got sick my immune system really went off the rails. I had gum problems, infections under my arms and polyps in my ears. When I got clean in 1987 I was limited to 4 to 6 hours a day. I could not work. I elected not to do the treatment because of several reasons, chief of which was I am into alternative medicine. After many years of research and therapy I work full time and feel good most of the time. My liver enzymes are close to normal and I am still in stage 1 liver disease. This is a potentially fatal illness and I think we should ponder treatment decisions carefully. There are other options out there that your doctors aren"t going to tell you about because they are uneducated in supplements, herbs and other alternative forms of treatment. Check for yourself, it"s your body! Thank goodness I am still alive and clean. Good luck to everyone who suffers from this illness.

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