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A few different tests for hepatitis C may be used to help diagnose this condition. One test -- the liver enzyme test -- can show whether your liver is functioning properly. A viral RNA test shows if the hepatitis C virus is in your body and, if so, how much is present. A liver biopsy may also be used to detect hepatitis C because it can show signs of infection and liver damage.

Hepatitis C Test: An Overview

Your healthcare provider can use a few different tests to see if you have hepatitis C, how much of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is present in your body, and if any liver damage has already been done.
These tests may include:
  • Liver enzyme test
  • Viral RNA test
  • Liver biopsy.

The Liver Enzyme Test for Hepatitis C

One hepatitis C test is called a liver enzyme test. This blood test looks at a number of substances in your blood that have to do with the liver and will help your healthcare provider find out if your liver is working normally or if it is being injured.
If the results show that your liver enzymes are higher than normal, it means that the liver is being damaged. But this test cannot show if hepatitis C is causing the damage. Sometimes, the liver enzyme test results are normal, but you still have an infection that is causing damage. The next step in either of these cases is to find out if the hepatitis C virus is causing the damage. This can be done with a second type of test for hepatitis C called the viral RNA test.

The Viral RNA Test

This viral RNA test (HCV RNA) shows whether the hepatitis C virus is in your body and, if it is, how much of the virus is there (see Hepatitis C Viral Load). This is done by detecting the amount of virus RNA (genetic material) in your blood through a technique called PCR. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, and is a method of duplicating a specific region of DNA or RNA. Once enough of the genetic material has been copied, it can be adequately tested.
Your healthcare provider will also use a blood test to find out which genotype of the hepatitis C virus you have (see Hepatitis C Genotypes). This will be very important in planning your treatment for hepatitis C.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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