Do you want to know what hepatitis C is? It’s a virus that can infect the liver.

You can become infected with it if you come into contact with the blood of an infected person.

If left untreated, it can sometimes cause “serious and potentially life-threatening damage” to the liver over many years, reports the NHS.

It's estimated around 118,000 people in the UK had chronic hepatitis C in 2019, figures previously showed.

Here are the early and later symptoms to look out for as well as when to see a GP.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

There are several hepatitis C symptoms that can appear at different stages, according to the NHS.

Early symptoms

Only around one in every three or four people will have any symptoms during the first six months of a hepatitis C infection - this stage is known as “acute hepatitis C”.

If symptoms do develop, they usually occur a few weeks after infection. They may include:

  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy (abdominal) pains
  • feeling and being sick

The NHS adds: “Around 1 in 5 people who experience symptoms will also have yellowing of the eyes and skin. This is known as jaundice.

Echo: Tiredness is an early symptom of hepatitis CTiredness is an early symptom of hepatitis C (Image: Getty)

“In around 1 in 4 people infected with hepatitis C, the immune system will kill the virus within a few months and the person will have no further symptoms, unless they become infected again.

"In the remaining cases, the virus persists inside the body for many months or years. This is known as chronic hepatitis.”

Later symptoms

The later symptoms of hepatitis C can “vary widely” – for example some may be barely noticeable but in others, they can have a “significant” impact on their quality of life.

Plus, the symptoms can also go away for long periods of time and then return.

Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms experienced by people with chronic hepatitis C:

  • feeling tired all the time
  • joint and muscle aches and pain
  • feeling sick
  • problems with short-term memory, concentration and completing complex mental tasks such as mental arithmetic – many people describe this as "brain fog"
  • mood swings
  • depression or anxiety
  • indigestion or bloating
  • itchy skin
  • abdominal pain

The NHS says: “If left untreated, the infection can eventually cause the liver to become scarred (cirrhosis).

“Signs of cirrhosis can include jaundice, vomiting blood, dark poo, and a build-up of fluid in the legs or abdomen.”

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When should I see a doctor about hepatitis C?

You should see your GP if you “persistently” have any of the later symptoms listed, or if they keep returning, advises the NHS.

Your GP may recommend having a blood test that can check for hepatitis C.

With modern treatments, it's usually possible to cure the infection and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy.