Hepatitis C Stages and Progression

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on August 30, 2020

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. It can be mild or serious. It can last just a few weeks or for a lifetime.

Hepatitis C can cause both acute and chronic infections. There is no vaccine to stop hep C, but most cases can be treated.

Acute Hepatitis C

These infections are short-term. They usually happen within 6 months of exposure to the virus.

Symptoms: Often you won't even know you have acute hepatitis C because it usually doesn't cause symptoms. If you do have some, they usually last from 2 weeks to 3 months. They might include:

Complications: Sometimes your body is able to fight off the hepatitis C virus, and it just goes away. But between 75% and 85% of people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus have their acute infection become a chronic infection.

Treatment: You and your doctor may decide to aggressively treat the virus. In that case, you may take antiviral medicine.

Lifestyle management: When you have hep C, you can do things to stay healthy and keep other people from becoming infected.

  • Stop drinking alcohol. It can cause more liver damage.
  • Talk to your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including supplements. Some may cause liver damage.
  • Keep others from coming in contact with your blood:
  • Eat a healthy diet. It can help your immune system fight off problems.
  • Get regular exercise. It can also boost your immune system and help your overall health.


Chronic Hepatitis C

A chronic hepatitis C infection is long-term. It can last your whole life if it isn't treated.

Symptoms: Most of the time, people with this don’t have specific symptoms. If they do, they’re usually common things like fatigue. As a result, people don’t find out they have it until they donate blood or have their blood tested at a regular doctor’s visit.

Complications: If you have hepatitis C for many years, or if it is untreated, it can cause serious problems, including

Treatment: Antiviral drugs can work to clear the virus from your body. You may take several medicines for 8-12 weeks. You’ll see your doctor regularly and have blood tests while you take the drugs to make sure your body responds well to treatment.

About 90% of people are cured of hepatitis C with few side effects.

Lifestyle management: As with acute hepatitis C, you can do things to stay healthy and keep other people from being infected.

  • Don't drink alcohol. It can cause more damage to your liver.
  • Tell your doctor about any medicines or supplements you're taking. Some may cause liver damage.
  • To keep others from coming in contact with your blood, cover all wounds.
  • Don't share toothbrushes or razors.
  • Use condoms during sex.
  • Tell health care workers you have the virus.
  • Don't donate blood.
  • Eat a well-rounded diet. It can help your immune system fight off problems.
  • Exercise regularly. It can strengthen your immune system and keep you healthy.


Show Sources


Mayo Clinic: "Hepatitis C."

World Health Organization: "Hepatitis C."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Hepatitis C."

CDC: "Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public."

American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases: "HCV Guidance: Recommendations for Testing, Managing, and Treating Hepatitis C."

American Liver Foundation: "Treating Hepatitis C."

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