Most people who are infected with hepatitis C-even people who have been infected for a while-usually don't have symptoms.
If symptoms do develop, they may include:
- Joint pain.
- Belly pain.
- Itchy skin.
- Sore muscles.
- Dark urine.
- Jaundice, a condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes look yellow.
- 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 feet.
- Shrinking of the muscles.
- Bleeding from enlarged veins in your digestive tract, which is called variceal bleeding.
- Damage to your brain and nervous system, which is called encephalopathy. This damage can cause symptoms such as confusion and memory and concentration problems.
Many other health problems are linked with long-term cirrhosis. For more information, see the topic Cirrhosis. There also are many other conditions with similar symptoms, such as other liver infections and liver damage caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Contagious and incubation periods
The incubation period-the time it takes for symptoms to appear after the hepatitis C virus has entered your body-is from 2 weeks to 6 months. But not all people have symptoms when they are first infected.
You can spread the virus to someone else at any time after you are infected, even if you don't have symptoms.