Things you need to know about the diagnosis of Hepatitis C

Health A-Z

Hepatitis C virus normally spreads through blood contact and often infects the liver. It is considered a silent disease because people affected may not understand the symptoms or may mistake the same for some other disease. Hepatitis C can be a temporary condition or chronic, depending on the severity. Chronic Hepatitis C can cause serious issues in the long term, inflicting liver damage, liver failure or even liver cancer. Getting rid of the virus in its early stages is vital to minimize its impact. It can get transmitted through body fluids as well. An infected mother can easily pass it on to her infant. Unprotected sexual intercourse can cause this to the participating individual, previously uninfected.

According to a study, this disease affects about 2% of the adults in the country. As per World Health Organization reports, at least, about 185 million persons suffer from this infection worldwide and about 350,000 people die annually.

Acute Hepatitis C seldom shows any symptoms. However, over a period, it may cause loss of weight, fatigue, jaundice, darkened urine color and bruising. Hence, proper diagnosis of Hepatitis C is important, as early as possible.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis C
Based on the symptoms, Hepatitis C is diagnosed by a doctor, which may include screening for hepatitis C, conducting blood tests and testing for liver damage. People who have medical conditions like chronic liver disease, people who have donated organs or blood before 1992, people on hemodialysis and anybody born to a mother with hepatitis C are advised to consult a doctor to check for Hepatitis C infection.

Screening for hepatitis C
People, particularly with a high risk of exposure to hepatitis C should get their blood sample examined to screen for Hepatitis B.

Other blood tests
After initial screening, confirmation, and diagnosis of Hepatitis C, additional blood tests should be conducted to quantify the level of viral content in blood and identify its genotype.

Tests on liver damage
The following tests are conducted to assess the level of liver damage in the patients affected by chronic Hepatitis C.

  • Liver biopsy
    This involves inserting a needle through the abdominal wall to take out a liver tissue for lab testing
  • Magnetic resonance Elastography (MRE)
    This is a non-invasive alternative to biopsy. Sound waves are bumped on the liver. The pattern formed by these waves when bounced back creates visual imagery to show the stiffness level and gradients throughout the liver. Stiff liver tissues indicate the presence of fibrosis or scarring of the liver.
  • Transient Elastography
    This is another type of non-invasive testing wherein, ultrasound is used to transmit vibrations onto the liver. The speed of their dispersal through liver tissue is measured to estimate liver stiffness.

Post the diagnosis is done, the treatment of Hepatitis C will depend on the severity of the condition. The treatment may include anti-viral medications in order to fend off the virus from the body, liver transplantation, and vaccinations.

  • Anti-viral medications
    Depending on the genotype, the level of liver damage, prior treatment, and medication, medicines are prescribed for 8-week or 12-week period. When medications alone do not suffice, liver-transplantation is suggested
  • Liver transplantation
    Damaged liver, which is beyond repair, is replaced with a healthy liver through this procedure.
  • Vaccinations
    There may not be actual vaccinations for Hepatitis C, however, doctors may recommend Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines so that liver damage is minimized.

Though chronic Hepatitis C may cause death eventually, there are treatment methods which can facilitate a total recovery. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help prevent Hepatitis C infection.