Hepatitis C Symptoms and Early Warning Signs

Hepatitis C is a sneaky virus. You may not have any symptoms at all. Most people don’t. Your doctor could check your liver and see only a little damage. You might not get diagnosed until they spot a problem with your liver enzymes after a routine blood test.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis C

The disease is called acute hepatitis C when you first get it. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, but you might not have symptoms at all. If you do, they may include:

  • Belly pain
  • Clay-colored poop
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellow tint to your skin or eyes)
  • Joint pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms usually show up between 2 and 12 weeks after exposure to the virus.

Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms

If you don’t get diagnosed and treated, you could have the disease for years and not know it. Doctors call this the chronic form, because it lasts a long time. Some people who've had it for a while get liver cancer or scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis.

In addition to the above symptoms, signs that your liver isn’t working the way it should include:

Symptoms of Cirrhosis From Untreated Hepatitis C

You could get scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis, after you’ve had hepatitis C for 20 or 30 years. If you have it, you might:

  • Retain water
  • Bleed and bruise easily
  • Notice skin and eyes turning yellow with jaundice

Does Hep C Always Become Chronic?

No. Doctors aren’t sure how it works, but between 15% and 25% of adults who have it clear the virus from their bodies without treatment. You might hear this called spontaneous clearance.

When to See the Doctor

If you have symptoms of hepatitis C or think you may have been exposed to the virus, make an appointment to be tested.

If you were born between 1945 and 1965, get checked. 

Find out the reasons why you should get tested for hepatitis C.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 14, 2018



American Academy of Family Physicians.

WebMD Medical Reference: "Hepatitis C," "Hepatitis B," "Combination antiviral therapy for hepatitis C."

Manual of Family Practice.

CDC: “Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public.”

Medscape: “Cutaneous Manifestations of Hepatitis C.”

Mayo Clinic: “Hepatitis C.”

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