Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis C: Why It’s Called the ‘Silent Killer’

Hepatitis C diagnosis

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  • One of the reasons why hepatitis C is dubbed a “silent killer” and a “traitor disease” is that most people who are infected do not experience pain and other symptoms
  • Getting an early hepatitis C diagnosis is a significant factor in treating this illness successfully

One of the reasons why hepatitis C is dubbed a "silent killer" and a "traitor disease" is that most people who are infected do not experience pain and other symptoms. In fact, as much as 75 percent of people with acute hepatitis C are asymptomatic, meaning they do not feel any symptoms at all.1 And if they do, the symptoms are either very mild or may be indicative of other diseases.

The symptoms of hepatitis C in men and women are typically the same,2 and if they do occur, they usually manifest within two to six months after exposure to the virus.3 However, they can vary in intensity, with women experiencing milder symptoms or seeing them later.4 If you think that you have been exposed to HCV or have any of the risk factors linked to this disease, keep an eye out for these warning signs.

Early Signs of Hepatitis C

The first hepatitis C symptoms usually occur six to seven weeks after being exposed to the virus. These typically include:5

  • A high fever with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or above
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling and being sick

Jaundice, or the yellowing of the eyes and skin, may also occur in 1 out of every 5 people who experience early hepatitis C symptoms. In some people, hepatitis C usually clears up on its own, with the immune system killing the virus within a few months. However, 75 to 85 percent of acute HCV infections does not go away, and it becomes a chronic infection. Thus, delayed symptoms may develop later on.

Hepatitis C Symptoms May Not Appear Until Years (or Decades) After Being Infected

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC),6 some people may experience the symptoms of hepatitis C starting from after six months up to 10 years after they have acquired the virus. In some cases, it may take even longer. This is because the symptoms only arise when there is already significant liver damage. Some of the delayed symptoms of this disease are:7,8 The first hepatitis C symptoms usually occur six to seven weeks after being exposed to the virus. These typically include:

Joint and muscle pain

Feeling sick

Abdominal pain

"Brain fog," or problems with concentration, short-term memory and completing complex mental tasks

Indigestion or bloating

Mood swings

Depression or anxiety

Itchy skin

Jaundice

Dark-colored urine

Clay-colored stool

Some people also develop hepatitis C-related skin rashes. This usually arises because of liver damage or as a side effect of conventional HCV treatment.9

Get Yourself Tested for Hepatitis C Before It's Too Late

If you think that you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus in any way, such as through sharing of needles, unsanitary tattoos or other risk factors, do not wait for symptoms to arise. Consult your doctor and ask them to run a blood test to determine if you have this disease.10 Getting an early hepatitis C diagnosis is a significant factor in treating this illness successfully.

MORE ABOUT HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C: Introduction

What Is Hepatitis C?

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How Do You Get Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C Duration

Is Hepatitis C Contagious?

Hepatitis C Causes

Hepatitis C Types

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C Prevention

Hepatitis C Diet

Hepatitis C FAQ

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