Skip to main content

Hepatitis C treatment

Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver, which can be acute or chronic

Syringe and vial
Hepatitis C is an infection that primarily affects the liver. Hepatitis C always starts with an acute infection that may clear up on its own or with medication. Acute hepatitis C doesn't usually have any symptoms and many people don't know they have it. In some cases, the infection becomes chronic and continues for many years.

Chronic hepatitis C is often called the silent killer as it does not usually cause any symptoms until the late stages of the disease when the liver is already damaged.

This page explains what hepatitis C is, what causes the condition, and how it is treated. Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private hepatitis C treatment with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is spread by direct contact with the blood of an infected person. It can also be spread during sex though this is less common.

A tiny drop of blood can be enough to infect someone with hepatitis C. The virus can live outside the body for several weeks so may be present on surfaces or unsterilised equipment.

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is transmitted by direct contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person.

It may be spread through:

  • Sharing needles when using intravenous drugs (this is the most common cause and accounts for around 90% of people infected with hepatitis C in the UK)
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Blood transfusions (there is a risk of infection if you received a blood transfusion before September 1991 in the UK, or in a country that doesn't screen for hepatitis C)
  • Sharing items such as toothbrushes or razors
  • Tattoos or piercings using equipment that isn't properly sterilised
  • From mother to baby during pregnancy
  • Needlestick injury from a contaminated needle

What are the risk factors for hepatitis C?

You may have an increased risk of getting hepatitis C if you:

  • Have ever used intravenous drugs
  • Have HIV
  • Work in an environment where you may be exposed to infected blood such as a hospital
  • Have ever had a tattoo or piercing using unsterilised equipment
  • Have ever been in prison
  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before September 1991

Most people don’t have any symptoms during the early stages of hepatitis C and may be unaware that they have the infection. Only around one in four people experience symptoms of early-stage (acute) hepatitis C. These may include:

  • Fever (a temperature above 38C)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)

What are the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C that continues beyond the acute stage is known as chronic hepatitis C.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C range from mild and barely noticeable to severe and life-impacting. Most people don't develop symptoms until many years after they become infected with hepatitis C and already have liver damage.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Brain fog (difficulty concentrating, or problems with short-term memory)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Visible spider-like blood vessels on the skin (spider angiomas)
  • Indigestion
  • Itchy skin

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant gastroenterologist or hepatologist, a doctor specialising in conditions affecting the digestive system or liver.

Your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, general health, and medical history. They may ask you some questions about your occupation or lifestyle to determine your risk of getting hepatitis C. They will perform a physical examination and order a blood test to determine whether or not you have hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is diagnosed using two blood tests: the antibody test and the PCR test.

Antibody test

The antibody test can tell if you have ever been exposed to the hepatitis C virus by checking for antibodies in your blood. It normally takes around four to ten weeks for your body to produce antibodies after infection with hepatitis C. Most people have developed sufficient antibodies for the test to detect after six months but it may take as long as nine months in some cases.

The antibody test tells you if you have been infected with hepatitis C in the past but doesn't tell you whether you currently have the infection.

PCR test

The PCR test is a test to see whether the hepatitis C virus is still active in your body. This test can detect the hepatitis C virus around two to three weeks after becoming infected.

Further tests

If you test positive for hepatitis C, your consultant may order further tests to check the health of your liver. These may include another blood test called a liver function test or an ultrasound scan.

Once we have the test results back, your consultant will explain your diagnosis to you and create an individualised treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Acute hepatitis C often clears up without treatment within a few months. In the early stages of the infection, your consultant may not prescribe any treatment and recommend waiting a few months to see if your body fights the infection on its own.

Chronic hepatitis C treatment

If your infection continues for more than six months this is known as chronic hepatitis C and requires treatment to prevent or reduce damage to your liver.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis C involves medication, monitoring and lifestyle changes.


Hepatitis C is treated with tablets called direct-acting antivirals (DAA).

There are six strains of hepatitis C and the medication or combination of medications you are prescribed depends on the strain you have. It is possible to have more than one strain.

DAA medications clear hepatitis C infection in over 90% of patients.


During your treatment, you will have regular blood tests to check that your medication is working. In some cases, your medication may be changed to a different one.

Your consultant will also check your liver for signs of damage. This may be a blood test, or a liver scan called a fibroscan.

Treatment for hepatitis C lasts for eight to twelve weeks. At the end of your treatment, you will have a blood test to see if the virus has cleared. The blood test will be repeated after twelve to twenty-four weeks to make sure the treatment has worked.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to treatment for hepatitis C, lifestyle changes can help reduce damage to your liver and prevent you from spreading the virus to other people.

Lifestyle changes include:

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Taking regular exercise
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol
  • Practising safe sex
  • Not sharing personal items like razors, and toothbrushes
  • Stopping smoking
  • Not sharing needles
  • Informing sexual partners that they need to get tested

Having treatment for hepatitis C does not make you immune and you can get hepatitis C again. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Untreated hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). This can take decades to develop. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure or liver cancer, serious conditions that can be life-threatening and may require a liver transplant.

You are more likely to develop cirrhosis if you:

  • Drink alcohol
  • Have type 2 diabetes
  • Have HIV
  • Have another type of hepatitis such as hepatitis B
  • Get hepatitis C when you are older

Around one in three people with untreated hepatitis C develop cirrhosis within twenty to thirty years.

Though hepatitis C isn't always preventable, there are some things you can do to minimise your risk of becoming infected with the virus.

  • Never share any items that could be contaminated with infected blood like needles, razors, or toothbrushes
  • Always wear gloves when in contact with blood or open wounds
  • If you have tattoos or piercings, make sure they are done using sterilised equipment
  • Practise safe sex

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about hepatitis C.

Can hepatitis C be cured without treatment?

Sometimes acute hepatitis C clears up by itself without treatment. In cases of chronic hepatitis C (hepatitis C that lasts for longer than six months), treatment is required to prevent serious complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer.

How long does hepatitis C treatment take?

Medication for hepatitis C is normally prescribed for eight to twelve weeks.

Can hepatitis C come back after treatment?

Treatment for hepatitis C does not prevent you from getting infected again. You can get hepatitis C through contact with infected blood even if you have previously recovered from the virus.

Can you live with hepatitis C without treatment?

Many people with chronic hepatitis C live for many years without symptoms and may be unaware that they have the infection. The first symptoms are often signs that the liver has already been damaged by the virus. Around a third of people with chronic hepatitis C develop serious complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer which may be life-threatening.

Can hepatitis C be transmitted after treatment?

If you receive treatment for hepatitis C and tests show you are clear of the virus, you no longer have hepatitis C and cannot spread it to others.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about hepatitis C treatment, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in March 2023. Next review due March 2026

  1. Treatment: Hepatitis C, NHS
  2. Hepatitis C, World Health Organisation
  3. Hepatitis C, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  4. Hepatitis C, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Specialists offering Viral hepatitis C treatment

View all specialists

{{ error }}

Find a specialist