If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C, taking a test will put your mind at rest or, if the test is positive,allow you to start treatment early.
GP surgeries , sexual health clinics , genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics or drug treatment services all offer testing for hepatitis C.
You should consider getting tested for hepatitis C if you're worried you could have been infected or youfall into one of the groups at an increased risk of being infected.
Hepatitis C often has no symptoms, so you may still be infected if you feel healthy.
The following groups of people are at an increased risk of hepatitis C:
If you continue to engage in high-risk activities, such as injecting drugs frequently, regular testing may be recommended. Yourdoctor will be able to advise you about this.
Hepatitis C is diagnosedusing two blood tests : the antibody test and the PCR test.Theresults usually come back within two weeks.
The antibodyblood test determines whether you have ever been exposed to the hepatitis C virus by testing for the presence of antibodies to the virus. Antibodies areproduced by your immune system to fightgerms.
Thetest will not show a positive reaction for some months after infection because your body takes time to make these antibodies.
If the test is negative, but you havesymptoms oryou may have been exposed to hepatitis C, you may be advised to have the test again.
A positive test indicatesthat you have been infected at some stage. It doesn't necessarily mean you are currently infected, asyou may have since cleared the virus from your body.
The only way to tell if you are currently infected is to have a second blood test, called a PCR test.
The PCRblood testchecks if the virus is still present by detecting whether it is reproducing inside your body.
A positive testmeans your body has not fought off the virus and the infection has progressed to a long-term (chronic) stage.
If you have an active hepatitis C infection, you will be referred to a specialist for further teststo check if your liver has been damaged.
The tests you may have include:
The specialist can also talk to you about any treatment you may need.
Read about hepatitis C, a virus that can infect and damage the liver. Find out about the symptoms, causes and treatments for the condition.
Read about the main symptoms of a hepatitis C infection and find out when you should seek medical advice.
Read about the main ways you can become infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Read about who should get tested for hepatitis C and what the test involves.
Read about the main treatments for hepatitis C, including the different medicines that may be used and what lifestyle changes you can make.
Read about the main complications of hepatitis C, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure and liver cancer.