Hepatitis C, also known as hep C or HCV, is a viral infection that causes the liver to become inflamed (swollen).

The CDC estimates that 3.5 million Americans are infected with the hep C virus, making this one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. Most people infected with hepatitis C develop chronic hepatitis. Often, people do not notice any hepatitis C symptoms until they have had the disease for many years, which makes early patient education and awareness extremely important.

Symptoms of hepatitis C may include:

  • Abdominal pain on the upper right side
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Bleeding from the esophagus or stomach
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin color)
  • Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
  • Pale or gray-colored bowel movements

After many years of being infected with hep C, the liver may become permanently scarred (a condition called cirrhosis) and not function properly. This condition can lead to liver failure.