Hepatitis C: Diagnosis

In order to diagnose hepatitis C (HCV), your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. You will also have a thorough physical exam—but the only way to accurately diagnose hepatitis C is through a series of blood tests that can detect HCV in your system.

If you have been infected with HCV, your doctor may suggest additional tests to determine the severity of your condition or how well your liver is functioning. These tests may include:

Blood tests. Your doctor may order blood tests to check various protein levels that indicate liver function, such as:

  • Albumin. Albumin is a protein made by your liver; below-normal amounts may be a sign of liver disease.
  • Prothrombin. Prothrombin is a protein made by the liver that helps blood clot. This blood test measures how long it takes for your blood to clot. A longer-than-normal time can be caused by liver disease.
  • Liver enzymes. Your liver enzymes may be high if your liver is inflamed from a chronic infection, such as hepatitis C.

Liver biopsy. During this test, a needle is used to remove a tiny piece of your liver, which is then examined under a microscope and tested for damage.