How Do You Find Out if You Have Hepatitis C?
People learn if they have hepatitis C by taking a blood test. But it’s important to remember that routine blood tests taken during a regular physical exam don't usually test for hepatitis C. This, combined with the fact that hepatitis C often has no symptoms, is why most people with hepatitis C don't know they have the disease. You have to ask your doctor to test you for hepatitis C.
Why do some people learn they have hepatitis C when they donate blood or have a blood test?
- Some people learn they have the virus after donating blood. Since 1992, donated blood has been tested for hepatitis C and other diseases. Others learn they have hepatitis C when their blood is tested for other medical reasons
- When blood tests keep showing unusual amounts of liver enzymes, it might be a sign of liver damage. Your doctor may order more tests, including a hepatitis C test, to find the cause
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What is the most common test for the hepatitis C virus?
- To learn if you have the hepatitis C virus, you take what is called an antibody test, or anti-HCV (anti-hepatitis C virus) test. It tells whether your body has made proteins called antibodies to fight the hepatitis C virus. Antibodies stay in your system after you’ve had any kind of virus, even the flu. A small amount of blood is sent to the lab and the results come back in 1 to 2 weeks. An in-office test may also be available and can return results within 20 minutes. If the antibody test is positive, it means that you have been exposed to the virus. But your body may have already removed the virus on its own; some people (25%) can get rid of the virus on their own. Another test is needed to confirm that the actual virus is still in your body
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Confirming hepatitis C
- Some people can get rid of the virus on their own without treatment. But the antibodies used to fight the virus will still show up in the antibody test. If you test positive for hepatitis C antibodies, other tests may be used to determine that the virus itself is in your blood. One of these tests is called a polymerase chain reaction test, or PCR. A PCR test tells the doctor if there is any virus in the blood and how much
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