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Long-term infection with the hepatitis C virus is known as chronic hepatitis C.

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Chronic hepatitis C is usually a "silent" infection for many years, until the virus damages the liver enough to cause the signs and symptoms of liver disease. Every chronic hepatitis C infection starts with an acute phase. Acute hepatitis C usually goes undiagnosed because it rarely causes symptoms.

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When signs and symptoms are present, they may include jaundice, along with fatigue, nausea, fever and muscle aches. Acute symptoms appear one to three months after exposure to the virus and last two weeks to three months. Acute hepatitis C infection doesn't always become chronic. Some people clear HCV from their bodies after the acute phase, an outcome known as spontaneous viral clearance.

Acute hepatitis C also responds well to antiviral therapy. The infection spreads when blood contaminated with the virus enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. Globally, HCV exists in several distinct forms, known as genotypes.

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Seven distinct HCV genotypes and more than 67 subtypes have been identified. Although chronic hepatitis C follows a similar course regardless of the genotype of the infecting virus, treatment recommendations vary depending on viral genotype. A normal liver left shows no signs of scarring.

In cirrhosis right , scar tissue replaces normal liver tissue. Liver cancer begins in the cells of the liver. The most common form of liver cancer begins in cells called hepatocytes and is called hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Hepatitis C infection that continues over many years can cause significant complications, such as:. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission.

This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version. Download this factsheet. Symptoms of hepatitis C. Testing for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C cures. Hepatitis C prevention. Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that affects your liver. There is now a highly effective cure for hepatitis C. Without treatment, hepatitis C can cause liver disease and liver cancer.

Some of the ways this can happen include: sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment, including spoons tattooing or body piercing with unsterile equipment medical procedures with unsterile equipment sharing toothbrushes, razors or nail files. Acute hepatitis C means the virus might make you sick for a short time but then you will feel better. If the virus stays in your liver for more than six months, then you will develop chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C means the virus stays in your liver for your whole life unless you get cured.

Getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on someone who has HCV. This can happen in health care settings. Being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not sterilized after being used on someone who has HCV Having contact with the blood or open sores of someone who has HCV Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person's blood, such as razors or toothbrushes Being born to a mother with HCV Having unprotected sex with someone who has HCV Before , hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Who is at risk for hepatitis C? What are the symptoms of hepatitis C? What other problems can hepatitis C cause? How is hepatitis C diagnosed? What are the treatments for hepatitis C? Treatment for hepatitis C is with antiviral medicines. They can cure the disease in most cases.

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Can hepatitis C be prevented? But you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by Not sharing drug needles or other drug materials Wearing gloves if you have to touch another person's blood or open sores Making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink Not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers Using a condom when you have sex NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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Start Here. Diagnosis and Tests. Treatments and Therapies. Living With. Related Issues. Health Check Tools. Statistics and Research. Clinical Trials. Article: Getting Comfortable with Risk. Article: Hepatitis C.