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In most cases, you won't have symptoms of hepatitis C until your liver becomes more damaged. That can take a long time -- years or even decades.

If you've been infected with hepatitis C for many years and don't get treatment, you may develop cirrhosis. This is a condition that inflames and scars the liver.

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

In cirrhosis, scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue. If this continues unchecked, scarring blocks blood flow through your liver. It also makes it hard for the liver to:

  • Remove harmful toxins from your blood
  • Fight infection
  • Digest food and process nutrients, hormones, and drugs
  • Make proteins to control blood clotting
  • Store energy

When this happens, you may have symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Sore muscles
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Dark-yellow urine
  • Light-colored stools
  • Joint pain

When Cirrhosis Gets Worse

As cirrhosis worsens, you are more likely to have symptoms like these:

  • Yellow eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Bleeding that takes longer to stop
  • Easier bruising
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
  • Fluid buildup and swelling in your legs (edema)
  • Fluid buildup or bloating in your abdomen (ascites)

Other serious symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Vomiting blood or having black-tarry stools
  • Greater sensitivity to drugs
  • Problems fighting infection
  • A low white blood cell or platelet count
  • Gallstones
  • Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
  • Kidney and lung failure
  • Increased risk of liver cancer

A failing liver may also allow toxins to build up in the brain (hepatic encephalopathy). Symptoms of this buildup may include:

  • Confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Trembling and hand flapping