There are two forms of
hepatitis C. The first form is called acutehepatitis C, which means that you recently became
infected with the virus. The second form is called chronic hepatitis C, which means that you have had an
infection for more than 6 months.
Most people who are infected
with hepatitis C develop chronic hepatitis C. But even people who have been
infected for a while usually do not have symptoms. This makes it common for
people to have hepatitis C for 15 years or longer before it is diagnosed. Many
people find out by accident that they have the virus, such as when donating
blood or having a routine physical exam.
If symptoms do develop,
they may include:
- Belly pain.
- Itchy skin.
- Dark urine.
- Jaundice, a
condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes look yellow.
Hepatitis C damages your liver very slowly. About
25% of people who have long-term (chronic) hepatitis C will go on to develop
severe liver damage and scarring (cirrhosis) after a period of about 20 years
or more.1 If you develop cirrhosis, you may
- Redness on the palms of your hands caused by
expanded small blood vessels.
- Clusters of blood vessels just below
the skin that look like tiny red spiders and usually appear on your chest,
shoulders, and face.
- Swelling of your belly, legs, and
- Muscle shrinking.
- Bleeding from enlarged veins in your digestive tract, which is
called variceal bleeding. Variceal bleeding can be very serious even though you
may not have previous symptoms of the problem.
- Damage to your brain
and nervous system, which is called encephalopathy. Encephalopathy can cause
symptoms such as confusion and memory and concentration problems.
Many other health problems are associated with long-term
cirrhosis. For more information, see the topic
Cirrhosis. There also are many
other conditions with similar symptoms.
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