Hep C diagnosis: a testing time

From The Hep C Review, Hepatitis C Council of NSW, December 2008:
The hep C virus is one slippery customer. Once inside, it sits quietly in the body, causing few or no symptoms that might give its presence away. It can remain unnoticed (asymptomatic) for a long time – up to ten years in some people – even to the point where it might have caused some people serious damage to the liver. The symptoms it does trigger, such as tiredness, abdominal pain and nausea, can cause problems but are so vague they can often be dismissed as simply being the result of other conditions such as the ‘flu, or the stresses of life in general.
What’s more, in the first couple of months after infection, conventional tests don’t always detect signs of the virus, so there is a risk of someone with hep C getting the all-clear. And not all people who receive a positive diagnosis will develop liver disease – some clear the virus within six months of infection without needing any treatment, and others may carry the virus in their body for decades without liver problems.
All this makes diagnosis of hep C difficult, but there usually comes a point in chronic infection – infection that lasts longer than six months after first contracting the virus – where either a doctor or the patient will get the feeling that something isn’t right, and the process of diagnosing hep C begins. Read more (pdf file, page 16).

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