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Signs and symptoms of hepatitis C: Why it’s called the ‘silent killer’

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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 or other symptoms. In fact, 60% to 70% of people that have been infected 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 CDC notes that symptoms of hepatitis C usually manifest within two weeks to four months after exposure to the virus.2 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. According to NHS, these typically include:3

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

Jaundice, or the yellowing of the eyes and skin, may also occur in 20% of people who experience early hepatitis C symptoms.4

In some people, hepatitis C usually clears up on its own, with the immune system killing the virus within a few months. However, 55% to 85% of acute HCV infections do not go away, and become chronic infection.5 Thus, delayed symptoms may develop later on.

Hepatitis C symptoms may not appear until years (or decades) after being infected

According to EMedicineHealth, some people with chronic hepatitis C may not experience the symptoms even if several years have passed after they’ve acquired the virus.6 This is because the symptoms only arise when there is already significant liver damage. NHS notes some of the delayed symptoms of this disease:7

  • 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
  • Changes in mood
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool

Some people also develop hepatitis C-related skin rashes, such as pruritus. This usually arises as a side effect of conventional HCV treatment.8

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 for a hepatitis C antibody test to determine if you have this disease. 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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