Jul 09, 2024

Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common blood-borne virus in the United States. Nearly 2.4 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C, and many more may be infected but do not know it. Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. 

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to the virus, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to determine the best course of action for you and provide support and guidance throughout your journey towards a healthier life.

However, many people may feel overwhelmed or unsure how to approach talking to their doctor about hepatitis C. This guide aims to provide a list of questions to ask and tips for preparing for your visit so that you can make the most out of your conversation with your doctor.

Here’s what you should know before your next doctor’s visit: 

6 Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Do I Need to Be Tested for the Hepatitis C Virus?

It is estimated that 51% of people living with hepatitis C do not know they have it. Therefore, it is important to ask your doctor if you should be tested for hepatitis C virus infection. They may recommend the test if you have any risk factors, such as:

  • History of injection drug use 
  • Being born to a mother with Hepatitis C
  • Having received tattoos or body piercings in unregulated settings
  • Having HIV/AIDS
  • Abnormal liver function test results  
  • Engage in high-risk sexual behavior   

They may also recommend the test if you have any symptoms associated with Hepatitis C. This may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Dark urine.

It’s essential to be honest with your doctor about your potential risk factors and any symptoms you may be experiencing. This will help them determine if you need to be tested and provide appropriate care.

How Will the Hep C Test Be Conducted?

To test for hepatitis C, your doctor will take a sample of your blood and send it to a lab for testing (this test is called an HCV antibody test). 

The HCV antibody test looks for antibodies in your blood that indicate if your body has ever been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. If this test is positive, it means you have had Hep C at some point, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you currently have an active infection.

If the HCV antibody test is positive, your doctor will likely recommend a second test called a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. This test looks for the virus in your blood and can determine if you currently have an active hepatitis c virus infection.

How Long Will It Take to Get My Results?

The time it takes to get your results can vary depending on the lab and type of test being conducted. In most cases, you will receive your results within a few days to a week.

It’s important to follow up with your doctor and get tested regularly if you engage in high-risk behaviors or have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve outcomes and prevent further liver damage.

What is the Difference between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is classified as either acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis C is a short-term infection that often resolves on its own within six months. However, if left untreated, it can progress to chronic hepatitis C, which is a long-term infection that can cause serious liver damage over time.

Your doctor can help you understand the difference between these two types of hepatitis C and how it may affect your treatment plan. This will also help you understand the potential risks and complications associated with each type of infection.

What Are the Next Steps If I Test Positive for the Hepatitis C Infection?

If you test positive for hepatitis C, the next step is to discuss treatment options with your doctor. Treating hepatitis C often involves a combination of antiviral medications, which can cure the infection in most cases.

In addition to Hep C treatment, it’s essential to make lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of further liver damage. This includes avoiding alcohol and certain medications that can be harmful to the liver, as well as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Your doctor may also recommend regular check-ups and follow-up testing to monitor the progression of the infection and ensure that treatment is effective.

How Can I Prevent Hepatitis C?

Unlike hepatitis A and B, there is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C. Therefore, the best way to prevent infection is by avoiding behaviors that can increase your risk of exposure.

Your doctor may recommend that you: 

  • Practice safe sex by using a condom, especially with new partners
  • Avoid sharing needles or any other equipment used for injecting drugs
  • Ensure that any tattoos or piercings are done in a clean and sterile environment
  • Take precautions if you work in healthcare or come into contact with blood regularly 

They may provide additional guidance on reducing the transmission risk based on your specific circumstances.

Final Thoughts

The topic of hepatitis C can feel overwhelming, but your doctor is there to help guide you through the process of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. It’s essential to proactively communicate with your doctor and follow their recommendations for the best possible outcomes.

At Connect to Cure, our care team is here to support you every step of the way. We offer confidential, personalized care that includes testing, treatment, and ongoing support for individuals living with hepatitis C.  

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you manage your condition.