At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To screen for and diagnose a hepatitis C virus infection and to monitor treatment of the infection
When to Get Tested?
If you may have been exposed to/have risk factors for the hepatitis C virus, such as through contact with infected blood, sexual relations with an infected person, IV drug use or you have symptoms associated with liver disease
A blood sample taken from a vein in your arm
Test Preparation Needed?
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect and damage the liver. In most cases, it is contracted through exposure to blood (usually from sharing contaminated needles while injecting drugs or, before 1992, through a blood transfusion), through sex with an infected person, via healthcare occupational exposure and it can also be passed from mother to baby.
Many people who are infected with Hepatitis C are not aware they are as acute infection produces few to mild non-specific symptoms. However Hepatitis C can also exist as a chronic (longstanding) infection and you can show no signs of this for a number of years (even decades) but it can then cause significant liver damage. About 65-75% of those infected can develop chronic liver disease with 20-30% of these developing cirrhosis over many years.
Hepatitis C antibody is produced by the body in response to exposure to the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The most common test for HCV looks for these antibodies in your blood. Some first line tests are also looking for the hepatitis C antigen, which the virus itself produces, as well as your antibody response. Other tests detect the presence of and actual amount of virus present or determine the specific subtype of virus.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in your arm.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.