Hepatitis C Testing

Sample type needed

Blood

Incubation period 

28 days (or 10 days with Early Detection tests)

Who is this test suitable for?

Men and women with symptoms or concerns

Results time 

Within 4 days of receipt in the lab

Treatment

Antiviral medication is effective in 50-85% of cases

Where can I get tested?

All Better2Know centres

What is a Hepatitis C?

The Hepatitis C Virus (also referred to as HCV) is a virus that can infect the liver. About 75% of people infected with Hepatitis C go on to develop a chronic condition. Symptoms can take years or even decades to appear.  Often, by the time a person becomes ill and seeks help, considerable damage will have already been done to the liver. If HCV is diagnosed early, treatment can be initiated and severe life threatenting complications may be prevented.

HCV is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. It can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral intercourse as well as body to body contact. It can also be passed through sharing needles, when injecting recreational drugs, sharing toothbrushes and razors, having a tattoo or body piercing with equipment that has not been properly sterilised and needle stick injuries. HCV can also be caught from medical treatment in developing countries, and from mother to baby during pregnancy and/or birth. Transmission during sexual intercourse in monogamous heterosexual couples is rare, but there is an increased risk of infection for homosexual men and individuals who are HIV positive.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?

Many people who have the virus often have no symptoms at first.  This is why it is important to get tested regularly if you have ever been at risk. Early symptoms can include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Later symptoms can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Digestive problems

In cases of chronic Hepatitis C infection the virus will remain in the body unless medical treatment is given. Most people do not have symptoms and some may have symptoms of fatigue but there may be ongoing damage to the liver.

Did you know? …

It is estimated that 3% of the world’s population are living with chronic Hepatitis C and more than 350,000 people die every year from Hepatitis C-related liver diseases.

What happens if I leave Hepatitis C untreated?

If left undetected and untreated, the virus can cause life-threatening conditions.  These can include scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure. You also will be at a higher risk of contracting HIV and other STIs through unprotected sexual intercourse. There is a risk of transmission from mother to baby either whilst pregnant or during delivery. About one in five people with a chronic Hepatitis C infection will go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years.

How do I get tested?

Better2Know offers a Hepatitis C test on its own or as part of a health screen.  If you would like to test for Hepatitis C and other STIs that you are worried about, we offer a range of tests and screens that may help.

A blood sample is needed for your Hepatitis C test and the same sample can also be used for other STI tests you may want. Results for your Hepatitis C test will be available the same day that your sample is received in our laboratory. In the event of a positive result, Further testing will be required to correctly identify the strain of Hepatitis C virus you carry. Better2Know can help you if you test positive for any of your results

What treatments are there?

HCV can be treated by taking a combination of drugs. These combination drugs are taken for a period of time that will depend on the strain of the virus that you have. Throughout therapy, blood tests need to be taken to check if the medication is working. Even if the virus is not completely cleared, the treatments can reduce inflammation and scarring of the liver. Better drugs are being developed all the time that can offer increased chances of success and there are some medicines now available that promise to cure Hepatitis C infections.

Lifestyle changes can also help limit the chance of damage to your liver developing. These include eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly and stopping alcohol intake.