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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C > What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C Basics

Learn About Hepatitis C
Learn About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis is a liver disease that causes inflammation or swelling of the liver. It may be caused by many things—including several types of viruses, such as hepatitis A, B, and C. Other causes can be heavy alcohol drinking and taking certain medicines. Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is a common form of hepatitis.

Did you know?

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Acute vs chronic hepatitis C

What happens to you if you have hepatitis C depends on the type of hepatitis C you have. Acute hepatitis C is a short-term illness that occurs in the first 6 months after being exposed to the virus.

If you have acute hepatitis C, you may have no symptoms or you may have mild symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling tired
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling sick to the stomach

As with some people who have acute hepatitis C, your immune system may be able to fight the virus and clear the virus for good. If you don’t get rid of the hepatitis C virus infection, it can become a chronic infection.

Did you know?

More than 7 out of 10 people who get the hepatitis C virus eventually develop “chronic” hepatitis C—which can be a lifelong disease. About 3 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.

What is chronic hepatitis C?

In chronic hepatitis C, the virus stays in the body and may be silently damaging the liver over a long period of time (several years or more). It’s important to work closely with your doctor to prevent serious liver damage.

If you have chronic hepatitis C

  • You may have no signs or symptoms of liver disease
  • You may not feel sick and may think there is no need to go to the doctor
  • At later stages, you may have symptoms like:
    • Muscle or joint pains
    • Loss of appetite
    • Dark urine
    • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

Chronic hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage, including:

  • Cirrhosis—severe scarring of the liver
  • Liver failure