Once you’ve been infected with hepatitis C, the virus stays in your body for life. Diagnosing an existing hepatitis C infection requires several blood tests.
Blood tests used in hepatitis C diagnosis:
- Hepatitis C antibody test - A blood test that shows whether you've ever had hepatitis C. If this test comes back positive, your doctor will follow up with a viral load test.
- Viral load test - A test that measures ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood. Viral RNA signals there is virus in your blood.
- Genotype - If the viral load test is positive, you'll be given a blood test to determine which hepatitis strain (genotype) you have. There are currently six known genotypes. Knowing genotype is essential as it determines which treatment you'll receive.
It’s important that you get tested for hepatitis C often if you’re at higher risk of contracting the disease. See if you should get tested and learn more about hepatitis C diagnosis.
Once HCV infection is confirmed, the next step is determining the extent of damage. Non-invasive tests such as a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound can provide detailed images of the liver. A liver biopsy may be necessary to determine the degree of liver damage.