Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C

Hepatitis is a medical condition of the liver, characterized by inflammation of the liver which might possibly result in scarring, fibrosis, Cirrhosis and hepatic malignancies. There are 5 major entities of the virus, responsible for causing Hepatitis known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. This article discusses, 

1. What is Acute Hepatitis C
      – Cause, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

2. What is Chronic Hepatitis C
      – Cause, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

3. Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C

Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C - Comparison Summary

What is Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a form of Hepatitis which is transmitted through the exposure to blood and blood products contaminated with the particular virus.

The most common methods of Hepatitis C transmission includes,

  • Blood and blood product transfusion
  • Contamination with infected injections during invasive medical procedures
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Intravenous drug users

Patients with Hepatitis C, in general, will suffer from fever, fatigability, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pains and signs of jaundice (yellowish tinge on the skin and mucous membranes).

Diagnosed as either acute or chronic Hepatitis C with relevant clinical signs and serological investigations, this condition is mainly treated with Antiviral medicines, which is known to be effective in 90% of affected individuals.

What is Acute Hepatitis C

Acute HCV significantly indicate all the general features of Hepatitis C including jaundice, nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain and joint pains. Once the illness is suspected in patients with a relevant history and physical signs, serological investigations will be carried out to find the exact origin and natural history of the disease.

Acute type of Hepatitis C is characterized by raised bilirubin and liver enzyme levels yet with a subclinical presentation. Serum Anti HCV will be shown positive after 6-8 weeks of the initial exposure whereas HGV RNA will be positive only after 2 weeks. Therefore, serial tests carried out at monthly intervals will be highly encouraged to confirm the complete recovery of the acute condition with negative serology results in about 3 months.

On the other hand, tests, which are positive even after a duration of 6 months will be highly suggestive of a chronic Hepatitis C condition.

Main Difference - Acute vs Chronic Hepatitis C

Simplified diagram of the structure of the Hepatitis C virus particle

What is Chronic Hepatitis C

This is a form of Hepatitis C which is confirmed by the presence of positive antibodies in patient’s blood even after a duration of 6 months following the initial exposure.

Chronic hepatitis C is often diagnosed incidentally during blood checkup at voluntary blood donation campaigns, pre-placement screening, routine medical check-ups or following the presentation of clinical features of chronic liver disease including asymptomatic elevation of liver enzymes, ascites, GI bleed, spider nevei, palmar erythema etc. in suspected individuals.

Difference between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C

Serologic profile of Hepatitis C infection

Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C


Acute Hepatitis C is a condition which has all the general features of Hepatitis C including jaundice, nausea, vomiting, fever, dark color urine, abdominal pain and joint pains, and associated with a serological test positive for anti-HCV up to a period of 6 months.

On the other hand, Chronic Hepatitis C is diagnosed with positive serological studies, present even after a period of 6 months. Patients with this type will often be asymptomatic and the diagnosis will be mainly made incidentally during a routine medical check-up or blood donation campaign.


Main method of the identification of acute hepatitis from chronic hepatitis is by carrying out a serological test for anti-HCV antibodies. Patients who have been infected previously with this infection will show positive results.

A chronic hepatitis could only be diagnosed by a nucleic acid test for HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA).

Image Courtesy:

“HCV structure” By GrahamColm at English Wikipedia via

“Hepatitis C serology” By GrahamColm at English Wikipedia via

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music

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