When we want to confirm that Hep C is indeed present in our liver we have to use different tests. Hepatitis C diagnosis can target on detecting two things – the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) itself or antibodies against HCV that are formed because the immune system is trying to fight of the infection.
For Hepatitis C diagnosis via detection of HCV a method with PCR is used to detect HCV's genome in one's bloodstream. With this method, we can detect Hep C infection very quickly – usually 1-2 weeks after the infection.
On the other hand, antibodies against HCV need time to develop. Methods such as ELISA or Western Blot that targets the antibodies is effective only after prolonged period of infection.
However, the most common way of Hepatitis C diagnosis is by looking at increased liver enzymes in routine tests. Hepatitic C virus can infect your body for decades on end without every showing any symptoms. It is also worth mentioning that the once diagnosis for Hep C is made, it is rather hard to figure out how long has the infection been present.
HOW HEPATITIS C DIAGNOSIS BEGINS
The first thing a doctor suspecting Hep C infection will do is order blood work. This will tell him if antibodies against HCV are present in the bloodstream via ELISA test. The problem here is that in most cases antibodies appear 2-3 months after the infection, in some cases even after half a year. So if you don't have antibodies that does not necessarily mean that you don't have Hep C. On the other hand, if you have antibodies, that does not necessarily mean you have Hep C – this is in the case when the immune system successfully fought of the infection, and all that remained are the antibodies in the bloodstream. That's why when test on antibodies is positive, a doctor will order PCR test to detect Hepatitis C virus in bloodstream. For this purposes test were developed that can give the information in under 30 minutes.
On the other hand, liver enzymes can be elevated in the beginning of the infection. However, the increase is often subtle and is disregarded.
The surest way to see the liver damage is to surgically remove a piece of liver – this is known as liver biopsy. In the laboratory, they will examine this piece and try to figure out if the infection is caused by Hepatitis C virus and how serious is the condition of patient's liver. This procedure is very invasive. That is why new test are being developed that could be presented as an alternative to liver biopsy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING TESTED
If you have tattoos or are above 50 years of age, it is very advantageous to get a Hepatitis C diagnosis via a simple test. What it takes is just a few drops of your blood and it is done. It is assumed that more than 75% of Hepatitis C patients are walking around without even knowing that they have Hep C. Are you one of them?
Do you have Hepatitis C? Not sure?
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