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Hepatitis B Testing & Treatment

On This Page: Testing Info | When to Test | Diagnosis |Treatment | Vaccine

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a contagious viral infection of the liver. It’s spread through contact with blood or other body fluids from an infected person. There is currently no cure for Hepatitis B.

An acute HBV infection (one that lasts less than 6 months) usually goes away on its own. On occasion, some chronic HBV cases (lasting for more than 6 months) have been known to go away on their own as well, although this isn’t common.

Most doctors will simply rely on blood tests to determine if you have a current hepatitis B infection.

Take Charge of Your Health

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection that is manageable when caught in the first six months. It can be contracted through sexual activities, infected blood or sharing needles. Approximately 70% of cases are symptomless, so get tested if you may have been exposed.

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Our Hepatitis B Antigen Test

Getting tested for hepatitis B with STDcheck.com is easy and fast. Our CLIA-certified test centers will collect a small sample of blood and examine it for the hepatitis B surface antigen.

The surface antigen is a protein that is present on the surface of the virus. This is the earliest indicator of acute hepatitis B, which ends up being highly useful in diagnosing people before their symptoms begin to appear. Detecting an early hepatitis B infection is important to avoid running into other health complications.

If you test positive for hepatitis B, our labs will run a confirmation test at no additional cost. This ensures that you receive the most sensitive and accurate results.

This test is included in our 10 test panel but can be purchased separately on our individual STD test selection page.

Getting tested for hepatitis B with STDcheck.com is easy and fast.

After ordering the test, you can walk in a nearby lab of your choice, no appointment needed. Once there, you will check-in and a phlebotomist will assist you in collecting a small blood sample. The whole process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and then results to come in within a few days. No undressing or uncomfortable swabbing is necessary!

Who Should Get Tested for Hepatitis B?

Doctors will sometimes test seemingly healthy people for hepatitis B due to the fact that the virus will affect and damage the liver before symptoms begin to show. Also, doctors will test patients with hepatitis B regularly to help guide and monitor treatment.

Doctors may order this test for their patients if:

  • Experiencing jaundice or unexplained elevated blood levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), a liver-associated enzyme
  • When you have a condition that requires chemotherapy or drugs that suppress your immune system
  • When you are being treated for HBV or hepatitis C
  • When it is unclear whether you have immunity and your healthcare practitioner is considering giving you the HBV vaccine

Things that increase your risk of acquiring hepatitis B:

  • Unprotected sex
  • Shared needles during IV drug use
  • Are a man who has sex with other men (MSM)
  • Living with someone who has a chronic HBV infection
  • Being born to an infected mother
  • Having a job that exposes you to human blood
  • Traveling to regions with high infection rates of HBV

You should get tested if you fall into the risk factors for a hepatitis B infection or if you are experiencing signs of infection.

When to Get Tested

In order for the test to detect an HBV infection, the body needs time after exposure to build detectable antibodies against the hepatitis B antigen. This period of time is called an incubation period and it’s around 3-6 weeks for hepatitis B.

Diagnosis

Doctors will usually ask questions regarding symptoms, risk factors, and travel locations. Then, after blood tests, they are able to diagnose you officially.

What Your Results Mean

Through STDcheck.com, you can order the tests yourself and receive results so you can find out if you are infected or not, without a doctor’s visit.

A hepatitis B surface antigen test may come back with the following:3

  • Positive results indicate that the surface antigen was found in your blood, meaning you may have an acute or recent HAV infection.
  • Negative results indicate the surface antigen was not found in your blood, meaning there is no active infection.

To determine whether an infection has progressed from acute to chronic, speak with a doctor, or get tested again 6 months post-exposure to see if the infection has gone away. Remember, if hepatitis B has not cleared the body within 6 months, it means the case has become chronic and you should seek the help of a physician so they can help you find the right plan to manage the infection before it creates any other health problems.

Treatment

Treatment for an acute hepatitis B infection is usually not needed. While there is no cure for hepatitis B, more than 90 percent of healthy adults who contract the virus will recover within the first year. It typically goes away on its own, but rest, a healthy diet, and staying hydrated are recommended while the body fights the infection. In a severe case of hepatitis B, antiviral drugs or a hospital stay should be considered, to avoid further complications.

Chronic hepatitis B infections can be treated, but the virus can not be cured. Some forms of treatment can slow down the damage. Close monitoring by a healthcare provider is crucial to help avoid or stop the progression of liver diseases caused by hepatitis B.

Treatment plans vary widely and depend largely on each individual’s overall and liver health, but the most common treatment options include:

  • Liver transplant – During a liver transplant, the surgeon replaces a damaged liver with a healthy one. Most healthy livers come from deceased donors, but there is a small number that comes from living donors who donate a portion of their liver.
  • Immune modulator drugs – These are man-made injections that are versions of a substance produced by the body to fight infection. This is mainly used for young people with hepatitis B who wish to avoid long-term treatment or women who might want to get pregnant within a few years after completing a finite course of therapy. Interferon should not be used during pregnancy. This treats liver inflammation but, it is not a cure.

Interferon-type drugs boost the immune system to help people’s bodies get rid of HBV. They are given a shot (similar to how insulin is given to people with diabetes) over the course of 6 months to 1 year.

  • Antiviral drugs – There are a few antiviral medications that can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver. These drugs are taken by mouth. Talk to your doctor about which medication might be right for you.

These drugs stop or slow down HBV from reproducing, which reduces the inflammation and damage of your liver. These are taken as a pill once a day for at least 1 year, sometimes longer.

Can I Get Hepatitis B Again?

No. Once you recover from a hepatitis B infection, your body has built the antibodies against the virus and will from then on be immune to the virus.

Vaccine

The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated before being exposed to the virus. When it comes to your health, it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive.

However, if a person has been exposed to HBV gets the vaccine and/or a shot called “HBIG” (hepatitis B immune globulin) within 24 hours, the hepatitis B infection may be prevented. This works by preventing the virus from growing and taking hold of your body.

If you are not sure if you have been vaccinated for HBV, speak with your healthcare provider, or take an immunization test to find out!

  1. “Treatment Options.” Hepatitis B Foundation | Baruch S. Blumberg Institute. https://www.hepb.org/treatment-and-management/treatment/.
  2. “Hepatitis B.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20366821#targetText=Treatment for chronic hepatitis B, ability to damage your liver.
  3. “Hepatitis B Testing.” LabCorp. https://www.labcorp.com/help/patient-test-info/hepatitis-b-testing.

Medically Reviewed by on February 7, 2020


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