Hepatitis C

Dr. Rajalakshmi VK (AIIMS)MBBS

November 29, 2018

January 05, 2021

Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C refers to the inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The primary mode of transmission is through blood. The disease develops as an acute infection and progresses to chronic in 80% of the affected. The acute infection lasts for a maximum of 6 months and recovery is possible without any treatment while the chronic infection lasts for a longer duration and may lead to cirrhosis and carcinoma (cancer).

Based on the genotype, HCV is classified into 6 types ranging from 1 to 6. Genotype 3 is the most commonly reported in India followed by genotype 1. Identification of genotype is necessary to provide appropriate treatment.

According to WHO, the prevalence of HCV infection in the Indian subcontinent is 0.5 - 1% against 1.6% worldwide and proves as a threat to the population.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Acute phase

Time usually taken for your symptoms to appear varies from 2 weeks to 6 months. 80% of infected individuals are asymptomatic but may experience:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Yellow discolouration of the eyes and the skin
  • Abdominal discomfort

Chronic phase

In later stages, there is:

What are the main causes?

HCV is mainly transmitted by blood through the following ways:

  • Sharing of needles and personal products like razors in drug users
  • Usage of infected needles and syringes in hospitals
  • Inappropriate sterilization of medical equipment
  • Blood transfusion with contaminated blood

Other modes of transmission are:

  • Sexual route
  • Mother to baby

Infection doesn’t spread through contaminated food and water nor by sharing household items.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

If you experience the mentioned symptoms, consult your doctor and he/she may recommend blood tests to determine the level of liver enzymes along with HCV antibody (Anti -HCV) and HCV ribonucleic acid (HCV RNA) tests to detect the virus. This test can detect the virus within just a week.

Liver biopsy is done to identify the extent of liver damage. HCV genotype testing is also carried out prior to initiation of therapy.

Direct acting antivirals are the newest drugs available for the treatment of hepatitis C infection with a treatment duration of 3 months. Due to the unaffordable nature of newer agents in India, conventional therapy is still used widely.

Currently, no vaccination is available for prevention of infection, but the disease can be prevented to a great extent by reducing the exposure to the virus (avoiding needle and syringe sharing, blood transfusion and sexual contact with affected individuals).

Proper adherence to the medication given by your doctor can help overcome the infection and improve your quality of life.


  1. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Hepatitis C
  2. European Association. Natural history of hepatitis C. November 2014Volume 61, Issue 1, Supplement, Pages S58–S68
  3. Prasanta K Bhattacharya, Aakash Roy. Management of Hepatitis C in the Indian Context: An Update. Department of General Medicine, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Sciences, Shillong, India
  4. Sandeep Satsangia, Yogesh K. Chawla. Viral hepatitis: Indian scenario. Med J Armed Forces India. 2016 Jul; 72(3): 204–210. PMID: 27546957
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for the Public

Medicines for Hepatitis C

Medicines listed below are available for Hepatitis C. Please note that you should not take any medicines without doctor consultation. Taking any medicine without doctor's consultation can cause serious problems.

Hepatitis C FAQs

Question almost 4 years ago

Can hepatitis C cause death?

Dr. B. K. Agrawal MBBS, MD , Cardiology, General Physician, Internal Medicine

Hepatitis C is a viral disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The disease usually damages the liver and can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Here's what you need to remember:

  • Acute hepatitis C can be resolved in the shorter-term with proper treatment.
  • If you ignore this condition, then it can turn into chronic or lifelong hepatitis C.
  • Chronic hepatitis C is much more serious, as it can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and even death.

Question almost 4 years ago

What is the difference between hepatitis B and hepatitis C?

Dr. Braj Bhushan Ojha BAMS , Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Ayurveda, Sexology, Diabetology

Hepatitis has five strains which affect humans: A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E are caused by consuming food and water contaminated with the virus. And hepatitis B, C and D are transferred through the bodily fluids of an infected person. So far, scientists have developed a vaccine for only hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus whereas hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. 

The classic difference between these two is that hepatitis B can be transmitted through contact with the patient's saliva or blood, whereas hepatitis C infection usually spreads through blood-to-blood contact.

Question almost 4 years ago

How long does it take for the symptoms of hepatitis C to show up?

Dr. Roshni Poonja MBBS , General Physician, Internal Medicine

Hepatitis C symptoms can show up two weeks to six months after someone is exposed to the virus. Indeed, around 80% of patients do not present with any symptoms after the initial infection.

The symptoms of hepatitis C include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Clay coloured faeces
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice

Question almost 4 years ago

Does hepatitis C become worse with time?

Dr. Rahul Poddar MBBS, DNB, MBBS, DNB , General Surgery

There are three stages of hepatitis C:

Acute Hepatitis C

The acute phase starts from the time the virus enters the body until the next six months. Research shows that 30% of patients can fight the infection naturally during this phase. In this phase, most people do not develop any symptoms and even those who do, present with vague symptoms like loss of appetite or fatigue. Only about 20% of people who get the virus develop jaundice in this phase. People usually do not seek any medical help until the situation worsens. 

Chronic Hepatitis C

Patients whose bodies can't naturally defeat the hepatitis C virus and who don't get treatment during the first six months, enter this phase. A person in the chronic phase would present with symptoms like:

To diagnose the hepatitis C virus in the chronic phase, your doctor would require two different hepatitis C virus RNA tests.

The infection becomes worse for patients during this phase, and some of them can develop liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition in which the healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, making the liver unable to function, eventually leading to end-stage liver disease.

End-stage liver disease

End-stage liver disease is the other name for chronic liver failure. It progresses over months, years, or sometimes decades. Chronic liver failure mostly happens due to cirrhosis. Liver transplant is the only viable option for a patient with end-stage liver disease.

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