Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. 

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) spreads through contaminated blood.

Signs and symptoms

  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)


Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus. 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. The most common HCV genotype in North America and Europe is type 1. Type 2 also occurs in the United States and Europe, but is less common than type 1. Both type 1 and type 2 have also spread through much of the world, although other genotypes cause a majority of infections in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Although chronic hepatitis C follows a similar course regardless of the genotype of the infecting virus, treatment recommendations vary depending on viral genotype.


Screening for Hepatitis C

If an initial blood test shows that you have hepatitis C, additional blood tests will:

Measure the quantity of the hepatitis C virus in your blood (viral load)

Identify the genotype of the virus. 

Doctors typically use one or more of the following tests to assess liver damage in chronic hepatitis C. 

  • Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE)
  • Transient elastography
  • Liver biopsy
  • Transient elastography 


Stop using illicit drugs, particularly if you inject them. If you use illicit drugs, seek help.Be cautious about body piercing and tattooing. If you choose to undergo piercing or tattooing, look for a reputable shop. Ask questions beforehand about how the equipment is cleaned. Make sure the employees use sterile needles. If employees won't answer your questions, look for another shop. Practice safer sex. Don't engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners or with any partner whose health status is uncertain. Sexual transmission between monogamous couples may occur, but the risk is low.