Hepatitis C infection can cause quick, life-threatening liver inflammation, but this reaction is rare. For many people, hepatitis C infection leads to slow progressive liver damage. The damage can include liver inflammation, liver scarring (fibrosis), severe liver damage (cirrhosis), and even liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver disease, the leading reason for liver transplantation, and is now the leading cause of death for HIV-infected individuals in the United States.
Most people with hepatitis C have NO symptoms.Many people have no idea they are infected until a doctor does a blood test or they start seeing signs of severe liver damage. If symptoms do occur, they can vary in type and severity.
Common symptoms of Hepatitis C include:
• Fatigue (extreme tiredness) • Muscle and joint pain
• Nausea and vomiting
Less common symptoms of Hepatitis C include:
• Severe nausea and vomiting that could lead to dehydration
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine)
• Bloated or swollen abdomen or stomach.
Hepatitis C infection is diagnosed by a simple blood test. Unfortunately,since few people have symptoms of hepatitis C, few people are tested.
Tests must be ordered by a healthcare provider, so it is important to discuss potential risk factors for infection with a doctor. Sometimes patients need to request the tests. All blood donations are tested and many life insurance companies test for hepatitis B and C.