Hepatitis C ( hep C ) is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) spreads through contaminated blood. Hepatitis C treatment required weekly injections and oral medications that many HCV-infected people couldn’t take because of other health problems or unacceptable side effects.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver and can be very serious. However, in the early stages of the disease, most people don’t perceive any symptoms, so it can be hard to tell if you have it.
Hepatitis is most commonly caused by the hepatitis viruses—hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. It can also be caused by infection, medication, toxins and autoimmune processes. The hepatitis C virus is considered the most serious of the hepatitis viruses.
There are two courses of hepatitis C: acute hepatitis C and chronic hepatitis C. How long you experience symptoms will depend on the type you have.
With acute hepatitis C, the symptoms are more short term, lasting six months or less. However, acute hepatitis can lead to chronic hepatitis. It’s possible to have chronic hepatitis your entire life because it’s difficult for your body to get rid of the virus. Researchers aren’t sure why some people develop the chronic form of the disease.
Long-term infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is known as chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C is usually a “silent” infection for many years, until the virus damages the liver enough to cause the signs and symptoms of liver disease. Among these signs and symptoms are:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Loss of appetite
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
- Swelling legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)
Some people may develop hepatitis C symptoms within two weeks of infection. Others might experience a longer delay before noticing symptoms. It could take from 6 months to 10 years or more before someone with the virus becomes aware of any symptoms. This is because it can take years for the virus to lead to liver damage.