Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is one type of hepatitis.
Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver that sometimes causes lasting damage. The liver isn’t able to work the way it should.
Hepatitis C can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
- Acute hepatitis C. This is a brief infection that lasts 6 months or less. It goes away because your body gets rid of the virus.
- Chronic hepatitis C. This is a long-lasting infection that happens when your body can’t get rid of the virus. It causes long-term liver damage.
It is rare to recover from hepatitis C infection. Most people with hepatitis C have the virus for the rest of their life.
Many people with hepatitis C don’t know they have it. In most cases people who are infected with hepatitis C may not show any symptoms for several years.
It is still possible to pass the virus to someone else if you have hepatitis C but do not have any symptoms.
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark yellow urine
- Light-colored stools
- Muscle and joint pain
Hepatitis C symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
Your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and ask about your past health. He or she will also do a blood test to see if you have hepatitis C.
If your provider thinks you have long-term (chronic) hepatitis C, he or she may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver with a needle. The sample is checked under a microscope to see what type of liver disease you have and how severe it is.