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. Experts recommend that all adults born from 1945 to 1965 should be tested for hepatitis C.4, 5 People in this age group are more likely to have hepatitis C and not know it.
It is important to be tested for hepatitis C if
- 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
- Received blood-clotting factor concentrates (used to treat
blood disorders such as
hemophilia) 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
pros and cons of testing for hepatitis C so that you
understand what having the virus means.
- Hepatitis B and C: Should I Be Tested?
First exam at the doctor's office
Your doctor will:
Tests for the hepatitis C virus
If your doctor
thinks that you may have hepatitis C, he or she may order:
- A hepatitis C virus test. This is a blood test that
antibodies 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
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 (genotype) you have. Knowing your genotype will help you and your doctor decide if and how you
should be treated.