What The Quantitative Results Mean
The quantitative test results indicate the exact amount of HCV in your blood. This number helps your doctor confirm whether you have a high or low viral load.
Measuring your viral load before treatment allows your doctor to monitor your viral load during and after treatment.
The viral load measurement doesnt indicate how severe your HCV infection or cirrhosis is. Your doctor will need to take a biopsy, or tissue sample, from your liver to learn more about how your liver has been affected by an HCV infection.
The viral load results from the quantitative PCR test can range from 15 to 100,000,000 IU/L.
If your results are:
- Fewer than 15 IU/mL: The virus is detected, but the amount cant be measured exactly. You may need to return later for another test to see if the measurement changes.
- Fewer than 800,000 IU/mL: A low viral load is detected.
- More than 800,000 IU/mL: A high viral load is detected.
- More than 100,000,000 IU/mL: The virus is detected and active infection is taking place.
- Inconclusive: HCV RNA cant be measured, and a new sample needs to be taken.
What To Do If The Hcv Antibody Test Is Reactive
If the antibody test is reactive or positive, you need an additional test to see if you currently have hepatitis C. This test is called a nucleic acid test for HCV RNA. Another name used for this test is a PCR test.
If the NAT for HCV RNA is:
- Negative you were infected with hepatitis C virus, but the virus is no longer in your body because you were cured or cleared the virus naturally.
- Positive you now have the virus in your blood.
If you have a reactive antibody test and a positive NAT for HCV RNA, you will need to talk to a doctor about treatment. Treatments are available that can cure most people with hepatitis C in 8 to 12 weeks.
Can I Take The Test At Home
At-home hepatitis C tests are available that allow patients to collect a blood sample at home and mail it to a laboratory for testing. Test samples are collected through pricking a finger with a sharp object, called a lancet, thats included in the test kit.
At-home HCV testing is a form of hepatitis C antibody testing and does not test for hepatitis C RNA or the strains genotype. Testing for hepatitis C at home is not a substitute for testing performed by a health care professional, and positive test results may need to be confirmed by laboratory-based testing.
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Can The Results Of Liver Panel Tests Point To The Presence Of Hepatitis C
A “liver panel” usually includes tests called AST, ALT, bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, and some others. Abnormal results could show up in many different conditions, not just hepatitis C. And even if the results of a liver panel are normal, you might still have hepatitis C. So, the liver panel alone cannot tell your provider the answer.
Hepatitis C can be diagnosed only by blood tests that are specific to hepatitis C:
In short, if the results of one or more tests on a liver panel are abnormal, generally speaking, the tests should be repeated and confirmed. If the results remain abnormal, your provider should be prompted to look for the cause.
More important than using the liver panel, if you have risks of having been infected with hepatitis C then you should have the specific hepatitis C antibody test to determine if you have hepatitis C infection.
How Can I Make A Difference For People With Hepatitis C
Anyone can help raise awareness about this widespread disease. Citizens can write letters to their state representatives or local newspapers and get involved in volunteer efforts with liver disease or Veteran-affiliated organizations . Speaking at support groups and sharing your experience is also a good way to help others with HCV.
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Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis C
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who
- have injected drugs
- had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- have been on kidney dialysis
- have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- have had tattoos or body piercings
- have worked or lived in a prison
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- are infected with HIV
- have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- are men who have or had sex with men
In the United States, injecting drugs is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.13
Living With Hepatitis C
Coping with hepatitis C isnt easy. You may feel sad, scared, or angry. You may not believe you have the disease. These feelings are normal, but they shouldnt keep you from living your daily life. If they do or if they last a long time you may be suffering from depression. People who are depressed have most or all of the following symptoms nearly every day, all day, for 2 weeks or longer:
- Feeling sad, hopeless and having frequent crying spells.
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy .
- Feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless.
- Thinking about death or suicide.
- Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping.
- Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss or gain.
- Feeling very tired all the time.
- Having trouble paying attention and making decisions.
- Having aches and pains that dont get better with treatment.
- Feeling restless, irritated, and easily annoyed.
Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. Your doctor can help by recommending a support group or a therapist. He or she may also prescribe a medicine for you to take.
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Can A Transplant Cure Hepatitis C
If you develop chronic hepatitis C and it leads to liver cancer or liver failure, you may need a liver transplant. Hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for a liver transplant.
A liver transplant removes a damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy one. However, theres a high likelihood that the hepatitis C virus will be transmitted to the new liver in time.
The virus lives in your bloodstream, not just your liver. Removing your liver wont cure the disease.
If you have active hepatitis C, continued damage to your new liver is very likely, especially if hepatitis C remains untreated.
What Are The Differences Between Acute Chronic And Resolved Hcv Infection
Acute HCV infection implies a new infection which may or may not resolve . Chronic HCV infection implies that the infection did not resolve and that the liver may suffer permanent damage. Resolved HCV infection means the viral infection has run its course or, if the patient responds to anti-viral treatment, the infection may be cleared by therapy.
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Who Is At Risk For Hepatitis C
You are more likely to get hepatitis C if you
- Have injected drugs
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you probably will not have symptoms until it causes complications. This can happen decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
Clinical Significance Of Hepatitis C Genotypes
Genotype generally has not been found in epidemiological studies to play a large rolein liver disease progression due to HCV. Rather, genotype is of clinical importanceprincipally as a factor in selecting the appropriate HCV medications for treatment. Please see the HCV Treatment Considerations for more information.
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I Have Hepatitis C And I’m Thinking About Having Children What Should I Know
Hepatitis C does not prevent a man or woman from having children.
The hepatitis C virus infection does not cause infertility in either sex–it does not affect a woman’s ovarian or uterine function, or a man’s sperm production or sperm characteristics.
If you are a woman with hepatitis C, talk to your provider about treatment before pregnancy. Treatment before pregnancy can help reduce the risk of hepatitis C transmission to your baby. If you are already pregnant, treatment will usually take place after pregnancy and you may need to be tested for hepatitis C again prior to starting treatment.
If you are a man with hepatitis C, talk to your provider about being treated prior to conceiving. Although the risk of transmission during sex is low, it is still important to treat hepatitis C for your personal health.
Could I Give Hepatitis C To Someone Else
Yes, once you have hepatitis C, you can always give it to someone else. If you have hepatitis C, you cannot donate blood. You should avoid sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes. It is very rare to pass hepatitis C in these ways, but it can happen. Always use a condom when you have sex. If you have hepatitis C, your sexual partners should be tested to see if they also have it.
Talk to your doctor first if you want to have children. The virus isnt spread easily from a mother to her unborn baby. But it is possible, so you need to take precautions. However, if youre trying to have a baby, do not have sex during your menstrual cycle. The hepatitis C virus spreads more easily in menstrual blood.
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How Can I Tell If I Am Contagious And Can Spread The Infection To Others
If you have detectable HCV RNA in your blood, you have the potential to spread the disease to other people. Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to contaminated blood. The most common mechanism of exposure is the sharing of needles or other ‘works’ used in consuming drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Other routes of transmission include use of contaminated equipment for body piercing and tattooing, occupational exposure of healthcare workers to used needles or other sharp objects, and, less commonly, through sexual activity that results in tissue tears or from mother to baby during childbirth.
What Is The Treatment For Hepatitis C
The treatment for hepatitis C has advanced in recent years which has greatly improved the outlook for people with hepatitis C. The main aim of treatment is to clear HCV from the body and so prevent severe liver damage leading to cirrhosis.
If you have acute hepatitis C, you may not need treatment, but will be monitored carefully to see if your body clears the virus on its own, and to keep an eye out for liver damage. Treatment with medicines is advised for most people with chronic hepatitis C. The type of treatment will depend on various factors, including the type of HCV, the severity of the infection and your own health. The treatments recommended are changing all the time as the treatment of hepatitis C is a developing area of medicine. New treatments continue to be developed. The specialist who knows your case can give more accurate information about the outlook for your particular situation. They can also advise on the side-effects you can expect with each individual treatment. Treatment length varies, depending on your situation, and can last from two months to nearly a year.
However, newer treatment combinations have been found to be more effective in many cases. Sometimes these are used along with ribavirin. There are quite a few different medicines used and recommendations change frequently in this rapidly developing field.
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Questions For Your Doctor About Test Results
Patients receiving hepatitis C testing may find it helpful to ask questions about their test results. Questions to consider include:
- What type of hepatitis C test did I receive?
- What was my test result?
- How do you interpret the results of the hepatitis C tests that I had?
- Do I need any follow-up tests based on my test result?
How Common Is Hepatitis C In The United States
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood.14
Researchers estimate that about 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.13 Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have this infection.
New screening efforts and more effective hepatitis C treatments are helping doctors identify and cure more people with the disease. With more screening and treatment, hepatitis C may become less common in the future. Researchers estimate that hepatitis C could be a rare disease in the United States by 2036.17
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How Will I Know If My Treatment Works
The goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of the hepatitis C virus in your blood to levels that cant be detected after 24 weeks of therapy. The amount of the virus in your blood is called your viral load. At the end of your treatment, your doctor will need to measure your viral load and find out how healthy your liver is. He or she may repeat many of the same tests that were done when you were first diagnosed with hepatitis C.
If your blood has so few copies of the virus that tests cant measure them, the virus is said to be undetectable. If it stays undetectable for at least 6 months after your treatment is finished, you have what is called a sustained virologic response . People who have an SVR have a good chance of avoiding serious liver problems in the future.
Treatment may not reduce your viral load. You may not have an SVR after treatment. If thats true, your doctor will discuss other treatment options with you. For example, if 1 round of treatment did not decrease your viral load enough, your doctor may recommend a second round. Even if treatment doesnt keep you from having active liver disease, lowering your viral load and controlling chronic liver inflammation may help you feel better for a longer time.
What The Qualitative Results Mean
The qualitative results indicate that HCV is present in your blood. The test result will be either detected or undetected.
Detected means that you do have the virus in your blood. Undetected means that you dont have the virus in your blood, or you have a tiny amount that cant be detected by this test.
The qualitative test results may still be positive even if your viral load has decreased drastically due to treatment.
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Genotyping And Serotyping Of Hcv
Hepatitis C genotyping is helpful in defining the epidemiology of hepatitis C, but on an individual patient basis, genotyping is crucial in regard to treatment recommendations and duration. Genotyping is based on sequence analysis by sequencing or reverse hybridization. Although viral load can vary within a 0.5- to 1-log range, HCV genotype does not change during the course of infection. In case of suspected superinfection, another genotype might rarely be detected. For reliable genotyping, 5URT alone is insufficient, including parts of the core sequence enhance genotyping reliability. Sequencing of NS5b is the gold standard.
Serotyping is the only other option to test for the type of HCV in cases of remote infection. This, however, is relevant for epidemiologic studies only and is not used clinically.
Andrea D. Branch, in, 2004
If I Have Hepatitis C Infection Does This Mean I Am Going To Have Other Health Problems
Hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other conditions have also been linked to hepatitis C and are known as extra-hepatic manifestations of hepatitis C. They include diabetes mellitus, arthritis, hypothyroid, and aplastic anemia among other conditions. Talk to your provider for more information.
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How Is A Person Tested For Hepatitis C
A viral-load test is used to check for hepatitis C in the bloodstream. Usually, hepatitis C virus can be found in a persons bloodstream two weeks after he or she becomes infected.
*Except in case of recent risk or in people with a weakened immune system**During the first six months after HCV infection, a person may spontaneously clear the virus if there was a recent risk, repeat viral-load testing to confirm chronic hepatitis C infection
Can Hepatitis C Be Prevented Or Avoided
The only way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid coming in contact with an infected persons blood. Always have protected sex . Dont do intravenous drugs. Dont share personal care items with a person who has hepatitis C. If youre a health care worker, follow your workplaces standard safety practices.
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