Hepatitis C

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Viral hepatitis usually develops without clinical signs or symptoms, or with symptoms that appear for a short time with or without jaundice, the telltale yellowing of skin and eyes caused by liver malfunction. When symptoms do occur, they may vary from flulike aches, pains, and malaise to fatal liver failure.

Many patients complain of pain in the upper abdomen or upper right side and diarrhea. Also characteristic of the disease is the development of dark urine and the lightening of stool color. This phase may last from two to three days to two to three weeks.

Once jaundice develops, general constitutional symptoms may subside over a period of weeks. However, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and scratching associated with irritated skin lesions may continue for some time. About 85 percent of acute hepatitis C infections become persistent.

Hepatitis C can also cause a variety of problems outside of the liver. Chronic kidney disease, arthritis, and skin lesions or rashes are the most common "extrahepatic" manifestations of the condition.

Last reviewed on 7/21/09

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