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In general, when people get infected with hepatitis C, they have few symptoms. Some people may experience a viral-like illness, but this is actually unusual.

Hepatitis 101

Although some people will resolve the infection without treatment, more than half will progress to chronic infection. This is important to understand, because hepatitis C causes most of its damage over years and decades following infection, and it does so almost silently. Most people with chronic hepatitis C are diagnosed during risk-factor based screening, or because they have abnormal liver enzymes on routine blood tests, and not because they feel sick.

During chronic infection, people feel perfectly fine, despite the fact that the hepatitis creates an inflammatory environment that promotes fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver.

Hepatitis Prevention Program | Florida Department of Health

Some people will only develop mild fibrosis, and are unlikely to progress to the most severe complications of hepatitis C. Unfortunately, a subset of people will develop severe fibrosis, and these are the people who will develop the dreaded complications of hepatitis C: cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma liver cancer. Cirrhosis describes a condition in which the liver is almost completely replaced by scar tissue.

These include ascites, an abnormal collection of fluid in the abdomen; easy bleeding from abnormally enlarged veins in the digestive tract; and confusion or encephalopathy from an accumulation of metabolic toxins usually cleared by the liver.

Unfortunately, we also see a lot of patients with liver cancer. This type of cancer is strongly associated with chronic hepatitis, especially hepatitis B and C.

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Sadly, DAAs will not help patients with liver cancer. If you would like to know more about hepatitis in general, this video provides a great overview:.

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