Hepatitis C Symptoms and Early Warning Signs

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 26, 2022
2 min read

Hepatitis C is a sneaky virus. You may not have any symptoms at all. Most people don’t. This is one of the reasons, along with treatability now, that all adults are recommended to get tested. Your doctor could check your liver and see only a little damage. You're usually not diagnosed until they spot a problem with your liver enzymes after a routine blood test.

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.

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 scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis. or liver cancer.

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

  • Ascites -- fluid buildup in your belly
  • Easy bleeding
  • Easy bruising
  • Hepatic encephalopathy -- confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech
  • Jaundice of the skin
  • Hives or rashes
  • Itchy skin
  • Spider angiomas -- spidery blood vessels under your skin
  • Swollen legs
  • Weight loss


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


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.

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

All adults are recommended to get screened.

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