Hepatitis C | All You Need to Know About Hepatitis C

Studies and exams for hepatitis C

The diagnosis of hepatitis C can be very difficult at an early stage of the disease in chronic patients because they are entirely asymptomatic. That is why antibody tests are so necessary to diagnose the condition. However, there are many other exams to do. This is an overview of the most important:

  • Hepatitis C antibody test: This is ultimately the best way to diagnose patients with hepatitis C infections. This test uses antibodies that bind to proteins in the hepatitis C virus. One of the problems is that this antibody assay does not tell you if the infection is still ongoing or has happened in the past. Different antibody tests bind different proteins, and the more sensitive test detects the hepatitis C virus eight weeks after the infection. Thus, you may have the condition during this time and still be negative in antibody tests. False-negative antibody tests may also happen in people with HIV and other types of immunocompromised. Since 2010 there has been a quick antibody test that uses a strip with blood collected from a puncture in your finger. It is a useful way to screen for hepatitis C in high-risk patients.
  • PCR test: This is a more specific way to tell if you’re infected or not when there is a doubt about it. This test is also helpful in predicting the response to the treatment and monitoring the disease in follow-ups.
  • Hepatitis C virus genotyping: In some cases, genotyping tests can help guide the treatment course. This is particularly the case in patients at a very high risk of complications.
  • Other exams: Your doctor may decide to run a few extra exams to check for vasculitis, arterial hypertension, and other conditions. These exams are also helpful in ruling out other diseases before diagnosing hepatitis C. They include rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibodies, and anti-smooth muscle antibodies, among others.
  • Liver biopsy: It is possible when the diagnosis is uncertain and the doctor suspects multiple infections from different hepatitis viruses. It is also a diagnostic option in some immunocompromised patients and to rule out liver cancer.