Table of Contents
- What is the hepatitis C antibody test?
- What do the results mean?
- What happens next?
- Other hepatitis C tests
- Who should get tested?
The hepatitis C antibody test is the only way to check if a person has had the hepatitis C virus. The results can be complicated, as a positive test does not always mean someone has hepatitis C. Read on to understand more about the test and what the results indicate.
Hepatitis C is a virus that damages the liver. If left untreated, it can lead to liver disease and other serious long-term health problems.
Many people do not realize that they have hepatitis C. There are specific risk factors for contracting the virus, such as age and exposure to blood or bodily fluids.
What is the hepatitis C antibody test?
A blood sample will be required for a hepatitis C antibody test.
The antibody test is a blood test to check for infection with the hepatitis C virus.
An antibody is a protein made by the body to protect against bacteria and disease. Antibodies can detect substances that could cause harm to health.
The medical term for these harmful substances is an antigen. When an antibody recognizes an antigen, it will destroy it or stop it traveling further into the body.
Antibodies are specific to a particular bacteria or disease, and they stay in the body after someone has been infected. This means that the antibodies should be able to fight off the same disease in future.
The hepatitis C antibody test checks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. If there are antibodies in the body, it means that a person has been infected with the virus at some point. However, it does not always mean that they still have the virus.
A doctor will take a small sample of blood to be sent away for testing. The results may take a few days or weeks to come back.
What do the results mean?
There are two results from a hepatitis C antibody test.
A non-reactive or negative test result means that the person does not have the virus. The exception is if someone has come into contact with the virus recently, such as through contaminated blood. If this is the case, they will need to have another test.
A reactive or positive test result means that the person has had the virus at some point but does not mean that they still have it. Further tests will be needed to check whether the virus is still active in the body and if treatment will be required.
What happens next?
After a diagnosis, further tests will be carried out to determine the impact of the hepatitis C virus on the body.
Once diagnosed with hepatitis C, a person will need to undergo a series of different tests to see how the virus has affected their body.
These tests will check for any liver damage, identify how well the liver is working, and help a doctor to decide on treatment.
Hepatitis C is treated with medication known as an antiviral. It gets this name because it aims to clear the virus out of the body.
Another aim of the medication is to slow down damage to the liver. It may also reduce the chance of a person getting liver cancer or developing serious liver scarring, known as cirrhosis.
A person with hepatitis C will require regular testing during treatment to see how well the medication is working. Keeping healthy, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol can help treatment to work.
Finding out about a diagnosis of hepatitis C may be complicated or confusing. The American Liver Foundation offer information, support, and advice for people who have the virus.