Exams and Tests
Because many people don't have symptoms, it's common for people to have hepatitis C for 15 years or longer before it is diagnosed. Many people don't find out that they have the virus until they are tested for some other reason, such as when donating blood.
You should be tested for hepatitis C if you:
- Have signs or symptoms of liver disease, such as abnormal liver tests.
- Received blood from a donor who was found to have hepatitis C.
- Have ever shared needles while using drugs, even if you only experimented many years ago.
- Are a health care worker who may have been exposed to hepatitis C through a needle stick or other contact with blood or body fluids.
- Have many sex partners or have a sex partner who has a chronic hepatitis C infection.
- Have had your blood filtered by a machine (hemodialysis) because your kidneys cannot filter your blood.
- Received blood, blood products, or a solid organ from a donor before 1992. Since 1992, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C. So it is now rare to get the virus this way.
- Received blood-clotting factor concentrates (used to treat blood disorders such as Reference hemophilia Opens New Window) before 1987. In 1987, screening of clotting factor concentrates for hepatitis C became a requirement.
Before you have tests, your doctor will probably talk to you about the Reference pros and cons of testing for hepatitis C so that you understand what having the virus means.
First exam at the doctor's office
Your doctor will:
- Ask questions about your Reference medical history.
- Do a Reference physical exam.
- Check your liver Reference enzymes Opens New Window to see if they are high. This may be the first sign that you have the virus.
Tests for the hepatitis C virus
If your doctor thinks that you may have hepatitis C, he or she may order:
- A Reference hepatitis C virus test. This is a blood test that looks for Reference antibodies Opens New Window against the hepatitis C virus. It shows whether you have been exposed to the virus. A rapid test is available that gives results in 20 minutes.
- A blood test that looks for the Reference genetic material (RNA) of the hepatitis C virus. This test shows whether you are infected with the virus now.
- A blood test to find out the kind of hepatitis C virus (Reference genotype) you have. Knowing your genotype will help you and your doctor decide if and how you should be treated.
Home testing for hepatitis C
Some people prefer to find out on their own whether they have been exposed to hepatitis C. In most drugstores you can buy a Reference home test called the Home Access Hepatitis C Check kit. If test results show that you have been exposed to the virus, it is important to discuss these results with your doctor and to find out if you are infected with the virus now.
Tests for liver problems
To check how well your liver is working, you may have:
- Reference Liver function tests. These are blood tests that can help your doctor find out if you have liver damage.
- A Reference liver biopsy. The doctor Reference puts a needle in the liver Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window to find out whether the virus has caused scarring or damage to your liver.
- Imaging tests such as a Reference CT scan, an Reference MRI, or an Reference ultrasound to make sure that you don't have liver cancer.
If you have a hepatitis C virus test, you may also get tested for Reference HIV Opens New Window.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference July 6, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology