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Hepatitis C Signs & Symptoms

Hepatitis C is a disease that affects 150 million people worldwide. The disease, caused by the HCV (hepatitis C virus), predominantly affects the liver and causes cirrhosis (scarring) in acute cases. Although 10-15% of patients with acute cases are fortunate enough to have their infections heal themselves, 80% of hep C patients develop chronic infections. Severe cases of hep C could lead to severe liver cirrhosis, liver failure and even death. Currently there is no vaccine against HCV, but there are treatments available to manage the infection and cure symptoms.

The following are symptoms of acute HCV:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pains
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice [yellow-hued pigmentation of the sclerae (whites of the eyes), skin and mucous membranes]
  • Liver cirrhosis

85% of acute cases of hep C are asymptomatic. Those patients who belong to the 15% statistic with symptoms generally experience mild symptoms unless they have a severe case involving liver cirrhosis. This is often how many cases of hepatitis C are diagnosed. Hep C treatments can help to prevent hep C cases from worsening and developing fatal symptoms.

About 20% of chronic hep C cases result in liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis forms when nodules, scar tissue and fibrosis replace liver tissue. Cirrhosis eventually leads to liver failure. Therefore, this condition may require liver transplants, making hep C the leading cause for liver transplants worldwide. Transplants offer a period of relief and usually result in disease recurrence.

The following are symptoms of liver cirrhosis:

  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal bruising
  • Abdominal bleeding
  • Portal hypertension
  • Hepatic encephalopathy [the cognitive impairment, confusion, coma and altered level of consciousness that result from the build-up of toxins in the bloodstream that are not filtered when the liver (the organ responsible for filtering wastes and toxins from the bloodstream) is damaged by the hep C virus]
  • Ascites (build-up of fluid in the abdomen)
  • Liver cancer
  • Gastric varices (lethally enlarged veins)
  • Liver failure
  • Esophageal varices

The following medical disorders may be associated with hep C:

  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Lichen planus
  • Diabetes
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Mixed cryoglobulinemia
  • B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders
  • Hyde’s prurigo nodularis
  • Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis

Patients with chronic hep C typically experience few, if any, mild symptoms of the infection for the first few decades. However, for those with severe cases, the disease is lethal and very painful. Hep C is the cause of 9,000 deaths in the United States each year, and it is estimated that more deaths will be caused by the disease as patients, who contracted HCV before hep C screenings were available, begin succumbing to its fatality.

Although there is currently no cure for hep C, there are many hepatitis C clinical studies taking place across the globe to discover cures and therapies for those who have been infected by HCV. There are medications and surgeries available to improve patients’ quality of life. Talk to your doctor to find out the best course of treatment for your hep C case.

Disclaimer: This article represents our best efforts but is in no way meant to replace the critical dialogue and recommendations of a healthcare professional. If you believe that you, or someone you know suffers from the conditions described here, see your healthcare provider. Do not attempt to treat yourself or anyone else without proper medical supervision.