Hepatitis C – Symptoms, causes & risk factors

Hepatitis C

It is known that the hepatitis C is a viral infection which causes liver inflammation and this sometimes lead to serious liver damage. The hepatitis C can spread through contaminated blood. Until recently, the treatment of this condition required weekly injections and oral medications which many people infected with the hepatitis C could not take because they have other health problems or they had unacceptable side effects. [1,2]

But this is changing nowadays. Nowadays, the chronic hepatitis C is usually curable with oral medications which are taken every day in a period of 2 – 6 months. But half of people who have Hepatitis-C do not know that they are infected, mainly because they do not have symptoms because it takes decades to appear.

This is a reason why the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending a one – time screening blood test for everyone who has an increased risk of getting hepatitis C infection [3]. It is noticed that the largest group who has a risk of hepatitis-c infection includes everyone who is born between 1945 and 1965. This is a population which has a five times more chances to be infected by this compared to people that are born in other years.

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Hepatitis C

The chronic hepatitis C is the long – term infection with hepatitis. Usually, the chronic hepatitis-c is a silent infection for many years, until the virus damages the liver enough to cause signs and symptoms of liver disease.

Signs of Hepatitis C

  • Spider – like blood vessels on your skin (known as spider angiomas)
  • Bleeding easily
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (known as hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Bruising easily
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Poor appetite
  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen (known as ascites)
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark – colored urine

You should know that every acute hepatitis C infection starts with an acute phase. The acute hepatitis-c usually goes undiagnosed because it causes symptoms in rare cases. When the signs and symptoms are present, then they can cause jaundice, along with muscle aches, fever, nausea and fatigue. The acute symptoms happen 1 – 3 months after exposure to the virus and they last for 2 weeks to 3 months.

The acute hepatitis C infection does not always become chronic. It is noticed that some people can clear the hepatitis C from their bodies after the acute phase and this is known as spontaneous viral clearance. There are some studies done in people diagnosed with acute this hepatitis  in which are said that the rates of spontaneous viral clearance is varying from 14 – 50%. Also, the acute this hepatitis  responds well to the antiviral therapy. [4]

Hepatitis C Causes

It is known that this hepatitis-c infection is caused by this hepatitis  virus. This infection spreads when the blood contaminated with the virus enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. It is known that this hepatitis virus exists in several distinct forms which are known as genotypes. [1,2]

The type 1 is the most common hepatitis virus genotype in Europe and North America. Also, the type 2 happens in the United States of America and Europe but it is less common that the type 1. It is noticed that both types 1 and 2 have spread through much of the world but other genotypes cause a majority of infections in the Africa, Asia and Middle East. The chronic hepatitis C follows a similar course regardless of the genotype which is infecting the virus, the treatment recommendation vary depending on the viral genotype.

Hepatitis C Risk factors – How do you get Hepatitis C ?

There are some factors which can increase your risk of hepatitis C, such as

  • You were born between 1945 and 1965 which is the group with highest incidence of hepatitis infection [5]
  • You were in a prison [6]
  • You have HIV
  • You are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood which can happen if the infected needle pierces your skin [1,2]
  • You were born to a woman with this hepatitis infection
  • You have received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment [7]


[1] Zampino R, Coppola N, Sagnelli C, et al. Hepatitis C virus infection and prisoners: Epidemiology, outcome and treatment. World Journal of Hepatology. 2015;7(21):2323–30. doi:10.4254/wjh.v7.i21.2323

[2] Gupta E, Bajpai M, Choudhary A. Hepatitis C virus: Screening, diagnosis, and interpretation of laboratory assays. Asian Journal of Transfusion Science. 2014;8(1):19–25. doi:10.4103/0973-6247.126683

[3] Prati D. Transmission of hepatitis C virus by blood transfusions and other medical procedures: A global review. Journal of Hepatology. 2006;45(4):607-16.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Testing recommendations for Hepatitis C virus infection. 2020. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/guidelinesc.htm

[5] Blome MA, Björkman P, Molnegren V, et al. Hepatitis C viremia patterns in incident hepatitis C infection and one year later in 150 prospectively tested persons who inject drugs. Plos One. 2014.

[6] Chung R. Baby boomers and hepatitis C: What’s the connection? Harvard Health Publishing. 2019. Retrieved from www.health.harvard.edu/blog/baby-boomers-and-hepatitis-c-whats-the-connection-2019050116532

[7] University of British Columbia. Tattooing linked to higher risk of hepatitis C, study finds. Science Daily. 2010. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100806125506.htm


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