Early and Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a term which denotes inflammation of the liver as a result of infection by the hepatitis C virus. There are many agents which are capable of attacking the liver, resulting in cell death or damage. This in turn evokes an inflammatory response in the body to help fight these agents.

The body’s response may help kill the hepatitis C virus. An extremely strong reaction, or a sustained inflammatory response, may extensively damage the liver, resulting in a fatal outcome. On the other hand, a very weak reaction may not eliminate the virus, resulting in chronic infection and significant liver damage.

Hepatitis C virus, 3D illustration. Image Credit: Maryna Olyak / Shutterstock
Hepatitis C virus, 3D illustration. Image Credit: Maryna Olyak / Shutterstock

Many individuals with hepatitis C are asymptomatic. They are not aware that they have an infection. However, they will probably experience some symptoms as the condition progresses, because of the increasing damage to the liver. For this reason, it is extremely important to diagnose hepatitis C infection in its early stages to minimize or avert potential serious complications.

Hepatitis C is an RNA virus. The virus’s genetic data is contained in a strand of RNA, which can be deciphered by the host cell's ribosomes. The virus has no specific requirements to replicate or sustain itself because it harnesses the cell's metabolic processes and reproduction capabilities for its own life cycle. The virus needs little RNA for encoding its core data. It contains fewer common characteristics, making it more difficult for the body’s immune system to track it, which may be one reason for the lack of symptoms in some cases.  

Early stage symptoms

Only about 25% to 35% of those with hepatitis C will experience symptoms during the first half-year of infection. If symptoms and signs are to appear, they usually will do so a few weeks after onset of the virus. During this time period, the condition is called acute hepatitis C.

Symptoms of hepatitis C infection include:

  • Elevated temperature at or greater than 100.4 F.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Little desire to consume food.
  • Stomach cramps or pain.
  • A sense of having an illness – feeling sick.

The problem with making a correct diagnosis is that some of these symptoms are not specific to hepatitis C.

Many of those with hepatitis C continue to be asymptomatic until the liver tissue becomes scarred, and cirrhosis sets in. Soft healthy tissue becomes hard fibrotic tissue in many parts of the liver. Yet, even at this point, no symptoms may appear. Eventually, the liver fails, at which point sudden and serious symptoms and signs appear. To combat this problem, high-risk population screening must be carried out extensively and thoroughly.

Late stage symptoms

Long term, or chronic, hepatitis C brings with it a variety of symptoms, some which may not even be noticeable, and some which can heavily influence the person’s quality of life. Moreover, the symptoms may disappear for a while, and then unexpectedly return.

Chronic hepatitis C sufferers will experience:

  • Almost continuous exhaustion
  • Muscle, joint, and stomach discomfort and pain
  • Intermittent or continuous sickness
  • Memory issues, including difficulty with being able to concentrate; finishing complicated mental functions, including mental arithmetic; and near-term memory issues
  • Changes in mood
  • Being anxious or depressed
  • Dyspepsia
  • Skin rash and itching

Untreated hepatitis C often leads to cirrhosis, which was described previously. Signs of cirrhosis can include blackish stools, jaundice, and extensive fluid collection in the legs. There is a growing risk of liver cell cancer over time.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 10, 2019

Joseph Constance

Written by

Joseph Constance

Joseph Constance has written about research, development, and markets in the health care and related fields. He has authored a number of articles, and business analysis/market research reports in the medical device, clinical diagnostics, and pharmaceutical areas. Joseph holds an MA from New York University in Communications. He enjoys spending time with his wife, biking, traveling, and learning about different cultures.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Constance, Joseph. (2019, July 10). Early and Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 13, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/Early-and-Late-Symptoms-of-Hepatitis-C.aspx.

  • MLA

    Constance, Joseph. "Early and Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C". News-Medical. 13 July 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/Early-and-Late-Symptoms-of-Hepatitis-C.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Constance, Joseph. "Early and Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/Early-and-Late-Symptoms-of-Hepatitis-C.aspx. (accessed July 13, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Constance, Joseph. 2019. Early and Late Symptoms of Hepatitis C. News-Medical, viewed 13 July 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/Early-and-Late-Symptoms-of-Hepatitis-C.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Unlocking hope: Promising treatments for cognitive impairment in HIV patients on the horizon