What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infectious/contagious disease caused by Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and mainly affect liver. In most of the cases of Hepatitis C, it is asymptomatic.

Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis C:

Acute Hepatitis C causes symptoms in only approximately 15% of patients and in the rest, it is usually asymptomatic. Even in symptomatic cases, the symptoms are non-specific and vague in nature. Symptoms of acute Hepatitis C include anorexia (loss of appetite), nausea, generalized weakness, weight loss, fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain etc. Rarely there may be liver failure. Jaundice is usually absent in acute Hepatitis C infection. Up to half (10% to 50%) of acute Hepatitis C infections resolve spontaneously, especially, among young individuals, especially, young females.

Chronic Hepatitis C infection:

As many as 80% of acute Hepatitis C infections may turn to chronic disease and majority remain asymptomatic or develop only minor non-specific symptoms (such as fatigue) for few decades. Although Hepatitis C infection remains asymptomatic for decades, it can slowly lead to cirrhosis (cirrhosis occurs commonly with individuals who also have Hepatitis B infection, HIV infection or who are chronic alcoholics) and liver failure and liver cancer. Patients with cirrhosis have high risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and approximately 1-3% develops liver cancer every year, especially those who are chronic alcoholics too. Once, cirrhosis or liver failure develops, all the signs and symptoms of liver disease appear.

Chronic Hepatitis C infection is responsible for more than 1/4th of all cirrhosis cases and 1/4th of cases of liver cancers (hepatocellular carcinoma) worldwide. Hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis are leading causes of liver transplantations.

Extra-hepatic symptoms of Hepatitis C infection:

Hepatitis C infection may have several extra-hepatic symptoms such as autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes mellitus, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count which leads to bleeding tendencies), lichen planus, membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, cryoglobulinemia (inflammation of small and medium blood vessels due to deposition of cryogloblin immune complexes) etc.


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