Hepatitis C is an infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). There are several types of hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A, B, D, and E. Of the hepatitis viruses, hepatitis C is the most serious. Hepatitis C can be chronic and cause severe liver damage.
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with infected blood. Specific individuals may have a higher risk of infection. Healthcare workers exposed to blood and drug users may have a higher risk of infection. Getting a tattoo or piercing with unsterilized equipment also increases disease risk.
Hepatitis C affects both men and women. The symptoms and complications of hepatitis C are the same for men and women, but the virus can affect women differently.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C in Women?
Many women don’t have symptoms until the disease is in a later stage. In the earliest stage, women who have signs of the disease may brush off symptoms or attribute them to other factors, such as depression or menopause.
Early symptoms of hepatitis C in women can include:
- abdominal pain
- muscle and joint pain
- decreased appetite
Some hepatitis C infections clear or improve on their own without treatment within a few months.
Hepatitis C can also be chronic, meaning the infection doesn’t clear on its own but instead progresses and damages the liver. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis and liver damage include:
- Bruising or bleeding
- Itchy skin
- Swollen legs
- Unexplained weight loss
- Spider veins
Hepatitis C can progress slower in women. Some women experience rapid progression of the disease and liver damage after menopause.
How Do Women Get Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C spreads from person to person through contact with infected blood. If you work in an industry where you might come in contact with blood, there’s an increased risk of exposure. These personal care industries include: