Symptoms of hepatitis C 

Only around one in four people will have symptoms during the first six months of a hepatitis C infection. This stage is known as acute hepatitis C.

The symptoms may include:

  • a high temperature of 38oC (100.4oF) or above
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pains
  • feeling sick
  • being sick

These symptoms occur a few weeks after infection.

In people who do have symptoms of acute hepatitis C, around one in five of them will also experience yellowing of the eyes and skin. This is known as jaundice.

In an estimated one in five cases of hepatitis C, the immune system will successfully eliminate the virus 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 years. This is known as chronic hepatitis.

Chronic hepatitis C

The symptoms of hepatitis C can vary widely from case to case. In some people, symptoms may be barely noticeable. In others, they can have a significant impact on quality of life.

The symptoms can also go away for long periods of time (remission) and then return.

Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of hepatitis C include:

  • feeling tired all the time – sleeping does not seem to help improve energy levels
  • headaches
  • depression 
  • problems with short-term memory, concentration and completing relatively complex mental tasks such as mental arithmetic – many people describe this combination of symptoms as "having a brain fog"
  • mood swings
  • indigestion or bloating
  • joint and muscle aches and pain
  • itchy skin 
  • flu-like symptoms, like those that occur in the acute phase of the infection
  • abdominal pain
  • pain in the liver area (which is located in the right upper side of your abdomen)

When to seek medical advice

See your GP if you persistently have any of the chronic symptoms above, or if they keep returning, especially if you inject drugs or have injected drugs in the past.

None of the symptoms above automatically means you have hepatitis C, but they do require further investigation.

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2013

Next review due: 09/10/2015