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Hep C FAQs

Discussion in 'HEP C HIV' started by spring, Apr 5, 2007.

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  1. spring

    spring Administrator

    HOW DO I FIND GOOD MEDICAL CARE FOR HEPATITIS?
    It is very important to find a health practitioner who is familiar with this illness. The symptoms of hepatitis can be mimicked by other illnesses (autoimmune illnesses, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, arthritis, etc.), and if you in fact have another illness that is not properly diagnosed, you may be losing out on getting treatments that might be effective for you.
    It is still an uphill struggle to find a doctor who is experienced in diagnosing and treating hepatitis C. Hepatologists specialize in diseases of the liver, and would be your best choice in physicians, followed by a gastroenterologist (a digestive disease specialist) or an infectious disease specialist. If there is a hepatitis support group nearby, they would be an excellent source of advice in identifying local doctors who may be familiar with hepatitis, or you can contact the American Liver Foundation (ALF) for a list of doctors near you. The best way to identify local support groups is to contact one of the national organizations. If there are no hepatitis knowledgeable doctors in your area and you wish to find an out-of-town specialist, you may read about such specialists from time to time in the newsletter of one of the national organizations.
    If your own doctor is sympathetic but not knowledgeable, you might gather together some medical articles on hepatitis and hepatitis treatments and encourage your doctor to study them.
    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GASTROENTEROLOGIST AND A HEPATOLOGIST?
    A hepatologist specializes in treating liver disease. A gastroenterologist does guts, essentially. I recommend finding a hepatologist, as they are more likely to be on top of the latest information concerning treatment of hepatitis C.
    HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
    While the newer HCV antibody tests are better; false positive results still occur, and further testing should be used to confirm the antibody test. Abnormal liver function tests (LFTs) suggest chronic disease, but there is no correlation between the level of the liver function tests and how severe the disease is. A liver biopsy is the best way to identify liver inflammation or early cirrhosis.
    Before 1990 doctors could diagnose HCV only by ruling out other possibilities (thus the old name for HCV "non-A, non-B hepatitis). Hepatitis C antibodies may not develop for two to six months after infection, so only two-thirds of patients who go to the doctor with possible hepatitis C infection can be diagnosed with blood tests. Diagnosis may have to exclude other possible causes such as HAV, HBV, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barre virus infection, as well as nonviral liver problems such as fatty liver, or alcohol or drug-related diseases.
    Follow-up blood tests are very important in order to determine if the disease has become chronic. The blood tests for antibodies are usually repeated three and six months after the original illness.
    Diagnosis is most commonly made after detecting an antibody to a portion of HCV in the blood. This indicates that the person was exposed to the virus and that their immune system made an antibody. The test can show false positive reactions and therefore confirmation is necessary by finding evidence that the Hepatitis C virus is actually in the blood using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), an extremely sensitive test for viral RNA.
    ANTIBODY TESTS
    Antibody tests indicate whether the body has been exposed to the virus and has produced antibodies to fight it. They do not determine whether or not someone still has the virus, or how long they've been infected.
    WHAT IS A PCR?
    Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) . HCV PCR tests are a newly developed test that came onto the market in late 1994. HCV PCR tests look for the presence of the virus. Information gained from the HCV PCR can be useful in interpreting unclear antibody test results. The HCV PCR cannot tell how long someone has been infected.
    Basically, your blood sample is broken up and certain parts are
     
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