Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C are essential to overcome this debilitating and possibly fatal disease of the liver. Unfortunately, the symptoms of this viral infection can take a very long time to develop as well as being very difficult to distinguish from other illnesses.
Mostly, infected blood from another person, getting into the patient’s system is the cause of hepatitis C. It is rare, but other body fluids transferred from one person to another can cause the disease to form too. What is certain is that it is your interest to get blood tests if you even suspect you have come into contact with someone else’s blood. There may have the virus that they were not aware of. When presented in its best form, it will prevent you worrying needlessly and at worst it may save your life.
So consult with your own general practitioner, a clinic specialising in sexual health, or a genitourinary medical centre. Drug users are a high-risk for hepatitis infection because of shared needles. So blood tests are also provided at drug treatment centres.
Blood analysis to determine the presence of the hepatitis virus takes two directions; 1) the antibody test and 2) the PCR test.
1) The antibody test is where your blood contains antibodies to hepatitis, because you have been exposed to the virus at some point in your life. These are proteins found in your blood, having been generated by your body to fight the invading virus.
If you have symptoms that may indicate hepatitis but no antibodies you will be asked to have another antibody test in some months’ time. This is because you may have a recent infection, and your body has not yet been able to make the antibodies. It is a relatively slow process of adjustment by your immune system.
A positive antibody test does not necessarily mean you are infected, since the antibodies may have successfully cured you of the disease. But you have been exposed to the virus at some time. The second test indicates whether you are currently suffering under the influence of the virus.
2) The PCR test is to discover whether the virus is multiplying in your bloodstream. A positive test here is the worst news. Since it means you have the virus, and it is in the second chronic stage of development. There will unfortunately be a dreadful two week waiting period to receive the much anticipated results after this test. This will then be followed by further tests of your liver to determine how far the virus has progressed in damaging your organ.
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you should ask for the above two blood tests;
Are you now or have you ever injected drugs?
Did you have a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992?
Have you had a transfusion in any hepatitis risk zone, such as North Africa or central Asia?
Is your mother infected with hepatitis?
Have you had contact in any way with blood or body fluids?
Could your tattoo have been done with unsterilized needles?
Does your partner have hepatitis? Or can they answer yes to any of the above questions?
If so, make sure to take preventative measures and seek medical advice ASAP. Remember, answering yes to any of the above factors, does not necessarily mean that you have contracted hepatitis C.