Transmission occurs most frequently when a person comes in contact with infected blood. This can happen by working in a dialysis unit or sharing needles for tattoos, body piercings, or drugs. Toothbrushes, razors, or manicure tools can also harbor small amounts of infected blood. While hepatitis C can be spread through sexual intercourse, this is rare.
(Click Hepatitis C Transmission for more information on this topic.)
About 80 percent of people infected with HCV have no symptoms -- even after many years. You can look and feel perfectly healthy, yet still be infected with hepatitis C, and infect others. Most patients do not have symptoms until there is already cirrhosis, or even liver failure.
If a person does have hepatitis C symptoms, they may:
- Feel tired
- Feel sick to their stomach
- Not feel like eating
- Have a fever
- Have stomach pain
- Experience a dull pain or feeling of heaviness on the right side.
They may also have dark urine or yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice (see Hepatitis C Pictures).
(Click Hepatitis C Symptoms for more detailed information.)
In order to make a diagnosis, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions and perform a physical exam looking for signs or symptoms of hepatitis C. If he or she suspects a liver problem, certain tests or procedures may also be recommended. These tests can include:
- Liver enzyme test
- Viral RNA (HCV RNA) test measured with PCR
- Liver biopsy.
(Click Diagnosis of Hepatitis C or Hepatitis C Test for more information on the tests used to make a diagnosis.)