Hepatitis C Virus Tests: About These Tests

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What are they?

Hepatitis C virus tests are blood tests that check for substances in the blood that show whether you have hepatitis C now or had it in the past. The tests can also tell you what type of hepatitis C you have and how severe the disease is.

Why are these tests done?

You may need these tests if:

  • You have symptoms of hepatitis.
  • You may have been exposed to the virus. You are more likely to have been exposed to the virus if you inject drugs or are exposed to body fluids (such as if you are a health care worker).
  • You have had other tests that show you have liver problems.
  • You were born between 1945 and 1975. People in this age group are more likely to have hepatitis C and not know it.
  • You have HIV infection.

The tests also are done to help your doctor decide about your treatment and see how well it works.

How can you prepare for these tests?

You do not need to do anything before you have these tests.

What happens during these tests?

A health professional takes a sample of your blood.

What else should you know about these tests?

  • The tests can tell your doctor what type of hepatitis C you have and how severe it is. This can help your doctor determine treatment and see how effective it is.
  • If you have the tests soon after you were infected with hepatitis C, they may show that you do not have the disease even when you have it. This is because the substances that show you have hepatitis C can take weeks or months to develop, so they may not be in your blood yet. Your doctor may want you to be tested again.
  • If the tests show you have long-term hepatitis C, you need to take steps to prevent spreading the disease.

What happens after these tests?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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