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Hepatitis C (cont.)

What kind of doctor treats hepatitis C?

When there are no symptoms or only mild symptoms, your Primary Care Provider can manage your hepatitis C. However, when symptoms progress, and especially when treatment is required, the care should be managed by either a gastroenterologist, hepatologist, or infectious disease specialist. If a liver transplant is eventually required, a transplant surgeon will be needed.

How is hepatitis C diagnosed?

Hepatitis C is diagnosed using careful questioning, a thorough physical examination, and through laboratory and imaging tests. Your health-care professional will ask about your symptoms and how long you have been having them. You may also be asked about your history of risk factors such as

  • blood transfusions,
  • travel,
  • injection drug use,
  • hemodialysis,
  • tattoos and piercings,
  • sexual partners, and
  • exposure to other people who do or might have hepatitis C.

What laboratory tests diagnose hepatitis C?

Laboratory blood tests will be done to evaluate the patient's liver function (liver blood tests) and to look for hepatitis C antibodies (serologies). If these tests indicate that the person has hepatitis C, a hepatitis C "viral load" test will be done. This looks for genetic material from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and measures the quantity of hepatitis C virus that is circulating in the patient's blood. This is helpful in determining if treatment is appropriate and to monitor the success of the treatment (how well the patient responded).

Individuals who had hepatitis C in the past and cleared the virus on their own will have a positive HCV antibody test, but there will be no hepatitis C virus genetic material (undetectable viral load) in the blood. If a person is immunosuppressed due to an immunological condition, cancer chemotherapy, immunotherapy or HIV/AIDS, the test results may be different and need to be evaluated accordingly.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2016
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Hepatitis C »

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 170 million individuals worldwide are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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