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Hepatitis C

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C infection?

Many patients experience no symptoms when they are initially infected. Patients may experience non-specific, mild symptoms that are unlikely to prompt a visit to their physician.  When symptoms occur, they can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)

Of those that are exposed to HCV, 75%-85% have chronic HCV.  For the remaining 15-25% the body will naturally clear the virus without treatment and no chronic infection results.

Those with chronic HCV  experience gradual liver damage, scarring (or cirrhosis) and loss of function.  In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop complete liver failure (resulting in the need for transplantation), liver cancer or life-threatening esophageal and weak gastric veins.

How is it diagnosed?

Because HCV infection doesn’t typically cause symptoms, patients are often not diagnosed until their donated blood is screened or when elevated liver enzymes are found during a routine health exam.

Because symptoms of the disease are often silent, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that all people born between 1945 and 1965—as well as other at-risk populations—be screened for HCV. It is important to discuss your individual risk for infection and the need for testing with your physician.

 

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