Hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver and can be very serious. However, in the early stages of the disease, most people don’t perceive any symptoms, so it can be hard to tell if you have it.

Hepatitis is most commonly caused by the hepatitis viruses—hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. It can also be caused by:

  • infection
  • medication
  • toxins
  • autoimmune processes

The hepatitis C virus is considered the most serious of the hepatitis viruses.

There are two courses of hepatitis C: acute hepatitis C and chronic hepatitis C. How long you experience symptoms will depend on the type you have.

With acute hepatitis C, the symptoms are more short term, lasting six months or less.

However, acute hepatitis can lead to chronic hepatitis. It’s possible to have chronic hepatitis your entire life because it’s difficult for your body to get rid of the virus.

Researchers aren’t sure why some people develop the chronic form of the disease.

Early symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 80 percent of those with acute hepatitis C won’t experience symptoms.

In some cases, people will experience symptoms not long after being infected. These symptoms can be mild or severe and include:

  • fever
  • feeling tired
  • poor appetite

If you develop hepatitis C symptoms soon after infection, you might also have these symptoms:

Early symptoms usually occur around six or seven weeks after exposure to the hepatitis C virus.

Delayed symptoms

Some people may develop hepatitis C symptoms within two weeks of infection. Others might experience a longer delay before noticing symptoms.

It could take from 6 months to 10 years or more before someone with the virus becomes aware of any symptoms. This is because it can take years for the virus to lead to liver damage.

Since it can be difficult to tell, based on symptoms, whether you have contracted hepatitis C, you can be tested for it. A simple blood test can confirm whether you have the condition.

After your doctor gets the results of your blood test, they may recommend that you undergo a biopsy of your liver to determine if you have liver damage from chronic hepatitis C.

You can book an appointment with a primary care doctor in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.

In the past, there was no medication to treat hepatitis C. However, over the last few years, medications have been approved to cure the disease.

If you have symptoms, or you’re found to have an asymptomatic chronic infection, your doctor will likely refer you to a liver specialist who can help determine the best course of treatment.

Your doctor can also monitor your symptoms and perform blood tests to confirm whether certain treatments are working for you.

It’s difficult to tell if you have hepatitis C based on symptoms.

Be sure to practice preventive measures to protect yourself from developing the condition:

If you think you may have contracted hepatitis C, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You can help prevent potential liver damage by starting treatment right away.

Read this article in Spanish.