Only 30 to 40 per cent of people in the acute phase of HCV infection have symptoms and, of those, many experience mild, non-specific and intermittent symptoms only.1 The lack of specific symptoms has led to hepatitis C being described as a ‘silent disease’ and may contribute to he low detection rates. Although chronic hepatitis C may not be accompanied by obvious symptoms, damage can be accumulating in the liver. Clinically “silent” disease does not necessarily mean inactive disease.
Many people with chronic HCV are also asymptomatic, although people may experience non-specific symptoms including:
Since early symptoms are often mild and unspecific it is important to systematically screen patients who have risk factors for hepatitis C, such as people who got unscreened blood or intravenous drug use elevated ALT values can also indicate a hepatitis C infection and therefore patients have to be tested for HCV antibodies.
1. Strader DB, Wright T, Thomas DL, et al. Diagnosis, management, and treatment of hepatitis C. Hepatology 2004;39(4):1147-71.