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Antibody to HCV, anti-HCV
A hepatitis C antibody test is used to find out if you are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). When your body is infected with a virus, it produces antibodies to fight the virus off. The hepatitis C antibody test looks for antibodies that the body produces in response to the presence of HCV.
HCV infects the liver, often causing inflammation and damage. It is more common in developing nations.
You may need this test if your doctor suspects that you have HCV. If you are infected with HCV, you probably won't have any symptoms at first. Consequently, the CDC recommends having the test if you:
Ever injected illicit drugs
Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Received clotting factor concentrates for hemophilia before 1987
Are the child of a mother with HCV
Have been a sexual partner of someone with HCV
Are a healthcare worker who may have been exposed to HCV
HCV can lead to liver disease, which has these symptoms:
Symptoms of severe liver disease include swelling of your feet, ankles, and belly (abdomen), and mental confusion.
If your results on the hepatitis C antibody test are positive or you have symptoms that suggest HCV, your healthcare provider may order a hepatitis C RNA test. This is a blood test that looks for genetic evidence of the virus itself. Another test, called "viral genotyping," helps find out what kind of HCV infection you have and what type of treatment may be needed. In some cases, you may need a liver biopsy to look for liver damage related to HCV.
Other tests look for ballooning of the blood vessels in the esophagus (varices) or cancer in the liver (hepatocellular carcinoma). Chronic infection with HCV can cause inflammation and destruction to blood cells, blood vessels, and other tissues in the body. Your healthcare provider may test for these conditions, as well.
A result for a lab test may be affected by many things, including the method the laboratory uses to do the test. If your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.
A test for hepatitis C antibodies is either positive or negative. If you test positive, you may have an HCV infection. But it could also mean that you had the infection in the past and are not currently infected. If you test negative, it is likely that you do not have the infection.
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
Hepatitis C antibody is just one of many tests that healthcare professionals use to diagnose a HCV infection. It simply notes that you have been exposed to the virus. It can't tell a current infection from a past infection. A weak positive test result could be a false-positive.
You don't have to prepare for this test. But be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.
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