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Liver Symptoms and Hepatitis C

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.

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Understanding Hepatitis C -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Because hepatitis C doesn't always cause symptoms, you may not know you have the virus. Your doctor won't check for hepatitis C unless you think you have had contact with a person who is infected or if you were born between 1945 and 1965. If you think you may have hepatitis C, you can get a blood test.  The CDC recommends that you have a blood test for hepatitis C if any of the following are true: You received blood from a donor who later was found to have the disease. You have ever injected...

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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

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on January 27, 2014

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