Living With Hepatitis C For Dummies
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Soon after you first become infected with the hepatitis C virus, you may have flu-like symptoms or even jaundice (abnormally yellow skin or eyes) during the acute phase (within the first six months) of infection. Most people in the acute phase are asymptomatic, meaning that they don't notice any symptoms, or they have symptoms that are mild or initially confused with other illnesses.

When your disease becomes chronic (after six months), you may develop some of the following symptoms in the months or even decades after infection.

You probably won't have all of these symptoms, but being aware of possible symptoms is good, so if one of them does occur, you'll recognize it. Keep in mind that some symptoms happen as a function of aging, stress, or menopause. Each person with hepatitis C is an individual, and your symptoms depend on many factors.

  • Fatigue: In a class of its own, the most commonly reported symptom is a feeling of weariness. The sense of sluggishness can be physical or mental or both.
  • Digestive problems: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, gas, indigestion, abdominal pain, or loss of appetite in any combination or experienced separately is a signal that something's wrong.
  • Emotional problems: Depression, anxiety, and mood swings are among the indicators of a condition or illness that warrants attention.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Headache, low-grade fever, night sweats, chills, joint and muscle pain, and weakness are not only signs of the flu, but also symptoms of other medical concerns.
  • Hormonal problems: More intense premenstrual tension or menopausal symptoms, irregular periods, loss of sex drive, or erectile dysfunction can accompany the aging process, as well as progressive diseases.
  • Jaundice: Yellowing of skin or eyes, dark urine, pale or clay-colored stools often relate to liver problems.
  • Skin issues: Dry skin, itchy skin, bruising, reddened palms, red spidery spots, swelling of your hands, feet, or face call for monitoring, especially if symptoms intensify over time.
  • Sleep problems: Insomnia and night sweats may occur sporadically or frequently.
  • Thinking problems: Brain fog, encephalopathy, associates with cirrhosis.

Your hepatitis C may directly cause some symptoms; others may be side effects of medications or the result of worrying about your illness. Like the chicken and the egg, it doesn't matter what came first. If you have any symptoms, tell your physician. Working with your doctor, you can deal with your symptoms.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Nina L. Paul, PhD, earned a doctorate in infectious disease epidemiology and immunology from Yale and has done research on viruses and the immune system.

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