Many people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. They may develop symptoms later on as their liver becomes damaged and starts failing.
About 1 in 3 or 4 people have symptoms during the first 6 months of a hepatitis C infection. This stage is known as acute hepatitis C.
If symptoms do develop, they usually happen a few weeks after infection.
Symptoms may include:
- fever (a high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above)
- tiredness and fatigue
- loss of appetite
- tummy (abdominal) pains
- feeling and being sick
- yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
For about 1 in 4 people infected with hepatitis C, their immune system will kill the virus in a few months. They will not have more symptoms unless they become infected again.
In the remaining cases, the virus can stay inside the body for many months or years. This is known as long-term (chronic) hepatitis C.
The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C can vary. In many people, symptoms may be barely noticeable. In others, they can have a big impact on their quality of life.
The symptoms can also go away for long periods of time and then return.
The most common problems include:
- feeling tired all the time
- joint and muscle aches and pain
- feeling sick (nausea)
- problems with memory and thinking ('brain fog')
- depression or anxiety
- indigestion or bloating
- itchy skin
- tummy pain
If left untreated, the infection can eventually cause the liver to become scarred (cirrhosis) and liver failure to develop.
When to get medical advice
If you do not have any symptoms of hepatitis C but you think there's a risk you're infected, you can:
- order a free hepatitis C test to do at home
- ask your GP about hepatitis C testing
- use a testing service at a sexual health clinic
Many people who have hepatitis C do not have any symptoms so it's important to get tested.
See your GP if you have any of the later symptoms of hepatitis C. They may recommend having a blood test to check for hepatitis C.
None of these symptoms mean you definitely have hepatitis C. But it's important to get them checked out.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE