Hepatitis C in men: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

According to a 2014 study paper that appears in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, an estimated 2.1 percent of men and 1.1 percent of women in the United States have hepatitis C. These statistics are similar in Europe.

Men are also more likely to have more severe side effects and liver scarring that occurs at a faster rate.

Around 73.6 percent of cirrhosis cases in the U.S. occur in men. Older research that the authors of the 2014 study paper cite found that in men, the condition progresses to fibrosis, or scarring, around 39 percent faster than it does in women.

While researchers do not know exactly why men have more severe side effects and faster disease progression, they theorize that estrogen could have a protective effect in women.

What are the main symptoms of hepatitis C in men?

Hepatitis C may begin with an acute infection. This can cause an illness that may seem flu-like. Acute hepatitis C infection symptoms include:

  • appetite loss
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • nausea
  • body aches and pains
  • yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes

Some people’s bodies clear hepatitis C on their own. However, this is not always the case, and the virus may therefore progress to a chronic infection.

Healthcare professionals sometimes call hepatitis C a “silent infection” because people may have it for a long time without knowing.

While not all people will experience symptoms, some may have symptoms that include:

  • appetite loss
  • easy bleeding
  • easy bruising
  • fatigue
  • itching skin
  • spider-like blood vessels on the skin
  • swelling in the legs
  • yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes

If symptoms do arise and the person seeks medical care, a doctor can diagnose hepatitis C before the person experiences any complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a key risk factor for a man is having condomless sex with another man.

However, it is much more common for hepatitis C to be transmitted by using shared needles than through sexual contact.

Men who have sex with men are also more likely to get hepatitis C if they:

  • have a history of sexually transmitted infection or HIV
  • have sex with multiple people
  • have rough sex

There are also some risk factors that cause a person to be more likely to experience liver scarring from hepatitis C. If a person with cirrhosis has a liver with excessive scarring, they may experience liver failure. According to the CDC, the risk factors for developing cirrhosis include:

  • being male
  • being age 50 or older
  • having a history of hepatitis B or HIV
  • having a history of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • taking immunosuppressive drugs
  • consuming alcohol

Men should speak with their doctor about how to treat hepatitis C and reduce the risks that their condition will worsen.

There are vaccines to prevent the transmission of hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

It is important that a person engage in preventive measures to ensure that they do not get the virus.

Examples of these include:

  • wearing condoms
  • never sharing needles
  • considering other treatments, such as methadone or buprenorphine, to avoid injecting or stop using drugs
  • seeking reputable tattoo and body piercing parlors

If a person suspects that they may be at risk of hepatitis C, they should talk to their doctor.


Hepatitis C affects men more often and more severely than it does women.

If a person seeks immediate medical care, a doctor can diagnose and treat men with hepatitis C before they experience severe complications, such as liver cirrhosis.

If a person has risk factors for hepatitis C, they should talk to their doctor about undergoing testing.

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