Hepatitis C is a sneaky virus. You may not have any symptoms at all. Most people don’t. This is one if the reasons, along with treatability now, that all adults are recommended to get tested. Your doctor could check your liver and see only a little damage. You’re usually not diagnosed until they spot a problem with your liver enzymes after a routine blood test.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis C
The disease is called acute hepatitis C when you first get it. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, but you might not have symptoms at all. If you do, they may include:
- Belly pain
- Clay-colored poop
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellow tint to your skin or eyes)
- Joint pain
- Poor appetite
Symptoms usually show up between 2 and 12 weeks after exposure to the virus.
Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms
If you don’t get diagnosed and treated, you could have the disease for years and not know it. Doctors call this the chronic form, because it lasts a long time. Some people who’ve had it for a while get scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis. or liver cancer.
In addition to the above symptoms, signs that your liver isn’t working the way it should include:
- Ascites — fluid buildup in your belly
- Easy bleeding
- Easy bruising
- Hepatic encephalopathy — confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
- Jaundice of the skin
- Hives or rashes
- Itchy skin
- Spider angiomas — spidery blood vessels under your skin
- Swollen legs
- Weight loss
Symptoms of Cirrhosis From Untreated Hepatitis C
You could get scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis, after you’ve had hepatitis C for 20 or 30 years. If you have it, you might:
- Retain water
- Bleed and bruise easily
- Notice skin and eyes turning yellow with jaundice
Does Hep C Always Become Chronic?
No. Doctors aren’t sure how it works, but between 15% and 25% of adults who have it clear the virus from their bodies without treatment. You might hear this called spontaneous clearance.
When to See the Doctor
If you have symptoms of hepatitis C or think you may have been exposed to the virus, make an appointment to be tested.
All adults are recommended to get screened.