Does Hepatitis C Affect Men and Women Differently?
Last updated: July 2023
Hepatitis C affects more than 170 million people worldwide. Hepatitis C is known as the silent disease due to liver damage that can go undetected for a long time without symptoms.
Risks of untreated hepatitis C
Most people who have hepatitis C (75% percent) will go on to have a chronic condition, which requires treatment. Untreated hep C can lead to severe liver scarring, such as cirrhosis. Hepatitis C patients can also develop associated medical conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference and reduce the likelihood of long-term effects or complications.
How men and women are affected differently
There are various ways hepatitis C can be contracted, hepatitis C can affect men and women differently.
The Journal of Infectious Disease reports, "Hepatitis C virus infection is a disease that disproportionately affects men more than women. After initial HCV infection, women are more likely to clear the virus spontaneously. Women also have slower rates of liver disease progression than men."1
In women, disease progression also changes over time, depending on age. Studies show that in women, hep C progresses more slowly during the reproductive years but more quickly after menopause. Research shows that men are more likely to develop liver cancer than women.2
Hep C testing and treatment
Testing for hepatitis C is recommended for both men and women. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the onset of associated medical conditions, as well as further liver damage. With hepatitis C treatment with direct-acting antivirals, the treatment response and cure rates are very high. The average cure rate is over 90% for both men and women.
While the goal of treatment is to eliminate the hepatitis virus and prevent further liver damage from occurring, treatment does not cure cirrhosis (severe scarring). However, once hepatitis C has been eliminated from the body, the liver can regenerate new healthy liver tissue from a certain level of liver inflammation and mild to moderate liver damage.
Both men and women should consider asking their doctor about getting tested for hepatitis C. Talk to your doctor about the variety of treatment options available for your liver condition.