Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide

Signs & symptoms

Relying on signs and symptoms of hepatitis C is not a reliable way to diagnose the infection. Over half of people who are infected are asymptomatic (show no symptoms) in the beginning and may carry the virus for many years before other symptoms develop. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure if a person has Hep C and is encouraged for anyone who may be at risk for getting hepatitis C.

Over half of people who are infected show no symptoms in the beginning.

Only about one-third of people show symptoms during acute infection. These symptoms can include: fatigue; tenderness or an aching feeling on the right side of the abdomen; decreased appetite perhaps with weight loss; flu-like symptoms; nausea; tendency to bruise or bleed easily; jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes); rash; dark-coloured urine; and light or clay-coloured stools. These symptoms often go away after a short time. 

If the disease progresses to chronic infection, it can take years before symptoms develop. Symptoms of advanced liver disease caused by long-term chronic infection can include: jaundice; ascites (swelling in the abdomen); and blood in stool or vomit. Sleep disturbances, depression, weight loss, dry or itchy skin, and “brain fog” are also found in people with chronic Hep C but the cause of these symptoms remains uncertain.

It can take years before symptoms develop.

Some people decide to get tested when they show symptoms but because there are rarely symptoms with Hep C infection, getting tested is the only way to know for sure and should be considered any time a person has engaged in a risk activity

See Symptom management and Managing side effects for more information on dealing with symptoms.

Revised 2011.