Hepatitis C Test Kit

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (informally known as Hep C) is an infection in the liver that is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Many people who have this common, chronic blood-borne virus don’t know it. Hep C is a contagious disease and can be transmitted through sex, sharing needles or other equipment used for injections, or from mother to child through birth (known as vertical transmission).

Many people with hepatitis C don’t show any symptoms.

When hepatitis C symptoms occur, they often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bowel movements that are light colored
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Urine that is dark yellow in color
  • Itchy skin
  • Fluid that accumulates at the feet
  • Eyes and skin that look yellowish (known as jaundice)

If left untreated, hepatitis C can become a chronic, long-term infection that can lead to liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and possibly death.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Although there is a cure, any damage the infection has already caused can’t be reversed, so being diagnosed and treated early is crucial. However, to start that process, you need to be tested.

Why Buy a Hepatitis C Test Kit?

It’s important to take a hepatitis C test early because 70-85% of those with the disease end up developing a long-term infection that leads to serious health problems. While taking a Hep C test in a lab at your doctor’s office is an option, home test kits allow for a more discreet experience that many people prefer. Although most sexually active patients understand the necessity of testing for STDs on a regular basis, many feel anxious and uncomfortable about it. Taking a home test offers patients more privacy around what is for some a sensitive issue.

If the following applies to you, it’s recommended that you take a hepatitis C test:

  • You’re a baby boomer (born between 1945-1965)
  • You’re engaged in activities that are considered high-risk, such as injecting drugs or sharing needles
  • You were born to a mother with Hep C
  • You show signs of liver disease
  • You had clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
  • You had a blood transfusion before July 1992
  • You had an organ transplant before July 1992
  • You were ever on dialysis long-term
  • You have HIV
  • You’re a health care worker who may have been in contact with HCV-positive blood by sharps, needle sticks, or mucosal exposure

What Companies Offer a Hepatitis C Test Kit?

Some of the companies who offer home hepatitis testing kits include:

  • Private iDNA
  • Health Test Express
  • My Lab Box
  • EverlyWell
  • STD Rapid Test Kit

Prices for these testing kits range from $29 to $199. EverlyWell doesn’t offer a specific hepatitis C test kit; instead they have an overall STD test kit that checks for 7 sexually transmitted infections, and Hep C is one of the markers checked. Most companies require you to send your sample to a lab before you get results, but STD Rapid Test Kit’s hepatitis C test kit is an instant test, providing the materials for you to do the test yourself and get results within 15 minutes.

What Will the Results Indicate?

A positive result from a hepatitis C test kit means you have an HCV infection now, or you have had an HCV infection in the past. Some people develop antibodies to HCV after being infected. The results do not tell you how advanced your disease is. If you have a negative result, you may possibly still have an HCV infection. It takes time for the antibodies to develop after you’ve been infected with the virus, so if you think you could be infected because you’ve been exposed to the virus, it’s recommended that you see your doctor for more thorough testing.

If you have a positive result, you can take your results to your doctor to get advice about treatment options. Some test kit companies include contact information for a medical team who can help answer questions you have about your results. Other companies provide the option to connect you with your local health department or an urgent care clinic for additional testing if needed to confirm your results. Some companies even include a doctor’s consultation so you can have a discussion about your results and treatment options.

How Do I Take the Hep C Home Test?

To take a hepatitis C home test kit, follow these steps.

1

Order a hepatitis C test kit online.

You don’t have to schedule or wait for an appointment. You can order the kit online and it will arrive at your door within 1-3 shipping days, usually in a discreet, unmarked box to maintain your privacy.

2

Read the instructions for sample collection.

Easy-to-follow instructions will be included in the kit. If you need additional help, check out the company’s website. Some offer videos with more details on how to collect a sample.

3

Collect the sample.

Most hepatitis C test kits ask for a blood sample. Follow the instructions to clean and then use the lancet to prick your finger. Catch the blood on the indicated area. (This differs according to the kit you purchased. Some test kits ask you to place drops of blood in a test cassette along with drops of the included dilution liquid, while others may ask you to place the blood sample on filter paper.)

4

Mail the sample.

Some hepatitis C kits allow you to skip this step and get immediate results at home, but for those that require the sample to be sent to a laboratory, package the sample as directed in the instructions and place it in the prepaid envelope included in the kit. It will be sent to a CLIA-certified lab.

5

Get results.

Depending on the company, you can get your results in 2-8 days through a secure, HIPAA-compliant portal. Some companies will call you by phone with your results; others will email you. If you take a test with an immediate result, you’ll be able to see the results on the cassette in about 15 minutes.

How Reliable Are the Tests?

All of the test kits boast high accuracy rates, many of which are over 99.8%. Those companies claim this is as reliable as tests done in a traditional clinic. Most companies use CLIA-certified labs, which means the labs and their staff had to meet certain standards before they are allowed to accept samples.

Feedback from customers is also mostly positive. Patients appreciated the fast shipping, discreet packaging, and easy-to-use test kit. They also love that they don’t have to feel embarrassed by going into a lab or office to get their results.

Although the tests have not been approved by the US Federal and Drug Administration (FDA), certain components of some tests are FDA-cleared. Companies remind patients that testing should be used for informational purposes only. Tests are not meant to diagnose or treat hepatitis C. They advise patients to consult a medical professional about how to move forward after receiving their results.

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