If you think there is a chance that you have been exposed to Hep C or are worried that you may have contracted it, taking a free test can help to put your worries at ease and allow you to start your treatment.
It’s important to get tested for Hepatitis C because some people do not notice symptoms so you could feel healthy whilst living with the virus.
The only way to know if you have Hep C is to have a very simple test.
These are the antibody test and the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test.
The results for these tests usually take 2 weeks to come back.
These 2 tests can often been done with the same sample of blood, this is most commonly a finger prick test, where no needles are used. There are two phases to the Hep C virus; the acute phase and chronic phase. Approximately 25% of people clear the virus within 6 months, which is known as the acute phase. If you have Hep C after 6 months this is called chronic Hep C.
You can get tested for free at:
– Drug and alcohol community treatment and support services
– GP surgeries
– Sexual health clinics
– One stop health shops and some antenatal clinics.
You can find a list of GPs, sexual health clinics, one stop health shops and antenatal clinics on the nhs.uk website (England), the NHS Direct Wales website (Wales), the NHS Inform website (Scotland) and HSCNI Online website (Northern Ireland).
The antibody test is used to find out if you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis C by testing for the presence of antibodies to the virus. It can take up to 3 months for antibodies to Hep C to be picked up by a test following infection.
If you think you have been exposed to the virus recently and your first test is negative, the Hepatitis C antibody test should be repeated 3 months after the last possible exposure to make sure the test is accurate during this ‘window period’.
If your test comes back positive this indicates that you have been infected at some point. However, it does not always mean that you are currently infected, as you may have cleared the virus from your body at some point. The only way that you can tell if you are currently infected with Hep C, is to have a second blood test, called a PCR test.
The PCR test checks whether the virus is currently present in your body by detecting whether it is reproducing inside your body. If this test comes back positive it means that your body has not fought off the virus and the infection has begun to enter the long-term stages, also known as chronic.
If the test comes back positive for Hep C, you will be referred to a specialist who can help you with further tests to check if your liver has been damaged. These tests could be further blood tests, which are used to measure the enzymes and proteins in your bloodstream that indicate whether your liver is damaged or inflamed.
A fibroscan is a type of ultrasound that can measure the degree of inflammation in your liver. It is a simple, painless test that uses high frequency sound waves. Your doctor may recommend that you have this test to help understand the condition of your liver. This will help them to plan your treatment. A fibroscan does not have any potential complications or risks and is non-invasive, which means that it does not break the skin or enter your body.
If you have a high score on the fibroscan you may then be asked to have a liver ultrasound. This is where sound waves are used to test how stiff your liver is; if your liver is stiff this can be used to determine if it is scarred.
You may need an additional test to find out what type of Hepatitis you have, this is known as a Geno test as this may determine your type of treatment. It doesn’t matter what genotype you have, 99% of cases are cured.
How do I get Hep C?
Living with Hep C