5 Reasons to Get Tested for Hepatitis C

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on March 07, 2024
3 min read

As far as viruses go, hepatitis C is among the sneakiest. Once it's in your blood, it travels to your liver, where it may settle in for a silent, long-term stay. This can lead to cancer or cause the organ to fail if you don't treat it. In fact, hepatitis C is among the top reasons for liver transplants in the U.S. 

It can be cured. Over 90 percent of people infected with hep C can be cured with 8-12 weeks of oral therapy. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 18 years of age be screened for Hep C.

If you think you’ve been exposed, here are five reasons to get tested right away:

New infections of Hep C usually have no symptoms at all. For those who develop a chronic infection, it often remains undiagnosed because it remains asymptomatic until decades after infection when symptoms develop secondary to serious liver damage.

A simple blood test can tell if you've ever had the virus. The results usually come back in a few days, but some clinics have rapid versions that can be read in as little as 20 minutes. If it comes back negative, but there's a chance you were exposed in the last 6 months, get tested again.

If the first results are positive, you had hepatitis C at some point. A second test will check to see if the original case cleared up or became chronic (as it does in most people). If it's chronic, you'll need to see a doctor who specializes in treating the disease.

You can pass the hepatitis C virus to others through your blood, even if you don't have any symptoms. To prevent this, cover wounds carefully and avoid sharing:

  • Razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or diabetes supplies
  • Needles for injecting drugs, or steroids
  • Tools for body piercings or tattoos

Hepatitis C doesn't spread through kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing eating utensils. Although it's uncommon, you can get it from unprotected sex.

Hepatitis C is treated with a combination of medications called antivirals. For many people, they get rid of the virus completely. They do have side effects and they don’t work for everyone. New drugs recently approved by the FDA are more effective and have fewer side effects. But some are expensive.

Early or late treatment is curative, but earlier is better to prevent cirrhosis. According to the CDC, out of every 100 people with hepatitis C:

Getting tested and treated early can stop the hepatitis C virus from triggering cirrhosis or cancer. Your doctor will be able to keep an eye out for signs of liver trouble. They can start treatment before serious damage begins.