There are two phases of hepatitis C. The first form is called acute hepatitis C. It means that you recently became infected with the virus. The second form is called chronic hepatitis C. It means that you have had an infection for more than 6 months.
Right after you are infected with hepatitis C, you enter the acute stage. Some people fight off the virus and never have any liver problems. But up to 85% of people who are infected will go on to have chronic hepatitis C.2
Most people have no symptoms right after they have been infected with hepatitis C. Your symptoms may be blamed on the flu. Since any symptoms are likely to go away in a few weeks, you may not know you have hepatitis C for a long time.
If you have an obvious symptom of hepatitis C, such as jaundice, or if you know you have been exposed to the blood of someone who has hepatitis C, you should be tested for hepatitis C virus infection.
Long-term hepatitis C often causes tiny scars in your liver. If you have a lot of these scars, it becomes hard for your liver to work well. About 25% of people who develop chronic hepatitis C eventually have more serious liver problems such as cirrhosis or liver cancer, usually over a period of 20 or more years.3
Certain things may help predict your risk for severe liver damage, such as how much alcohol you drink and the age when you were infected.