In the majority of patients with hepatitis C, there are no symptoms of the disease after exposure to the virus and in the early stages of the disease. In some patients, after a period that may vary between 15 days and 6 months after the virus enters the body, a picture similar to a cold and lasting for 1-2 weeks, joint pain, weakness, loss of appetite, and nausea can be seen. In the meantime, it should not be forgotten that chronic hepatitis C infection can cause skin, kidneys, salivary glands, eye problems and some rheumatic problems in the body, apart from liver damage.
Essential mixed cryoglobulinemia [an immune complex disease that can cause various symptoms such as RF (roma factor) formation in the serum, skin rashes, vasculitis, peripheral neuropathy and glomerulonephritis], focal lymphocytic sialadenitis, autoimmune thyroiditis, prophyria cutanea tarda, lichen planus ulcer and cornea ulcer ) are extrahepatic complications that can be seen in the course of chronic hepatitis C virus infection.
Routine blood tests reveal elevations of liver enzymes called ALT and AST (see liver function tests). With subsequent tests, it is understood whether there is HCV in the blood. Tests for this purpose are to detect antibodies against HCV in the blood (Anti-HCV antibodies) and to measure the amount of HCV RNA. Genotype determination should be made in HCV positive cases. Since anti-HCV antibodies will only become positive 3-6 months after the virus enters the body, this test may not yield results in the early stages of the disease.
HCV-RNA measurement, on the other hand, is a more sensitive test that allows to understand the amount of the virus in the blood, and it can become positive in a period of sometimes as short as 15 days after the virus is taken, and it helps in early diagnosis. The response to treatment is evaluated by measuring the amount of HCV-RNA before and after treatment.