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FAQ: Hepatitis B
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver. The liver becomes inflamed and tender. It may also become swollen. Areas of liver tissue may be destroyed by the inflammation. Hepatitis B is a serious, sometimes severe and even fatal type of Hepatitis.
How Does Hepatitis B Occur?
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. You get Hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. For example, you can get it from:
- Having unprotected sex with someone infected with Hepatitis B
- Sharing needles for drug injection with an infected person
- Your mother if she had Hepatitis B at the time she gave birth to you
- Getting a body part pierced or a permanent tattoo with nonsterile equipment.
The disease can be spread by people who do not have any symptoms and may not know they carry the virus. These people are called asymptomatic carriers.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?
You may not have any symptoms of Hepatitis B until several weeks or months after you are infected with the virus. Or you may never have any obvious symptoms.If you have symptoms, the illness usually begins with these flulike symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- General aching
Other early symptoms may include:
- Itching, sometimes with hives
- Painful joints
- Loss of taste for cigarettes if you are a smoker
After several days you may also have these symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul breath and bitter taste in the mouth
- Dark brown urine
- Yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Pain just below the ribs on your right side, especially if you press on that part of your abdomen
- Bowel movements that are whitish or light yellow and may be looser than normal.
Some people develop a chronic form of the disease without having any obvious symptoms, even though damage to the liver may be occurring. The symptoms of chronic Hepatitis B may be persistent fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite, as well as some of the other symptoms listed above.
How is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms. Especially important is your history of Hepatitis B risk factors such as IV drug abuse.Your provider will examine your skin and eyes for signs of Hepatitis B. Your provider will check your abdomen to see if the liver is enlarged or tender.You will have blood tests. If blood tests show that your liver is not working normally, your provider will do tests to see if you are infected with the Hepatitis B virus.
How to test for Hepatitis B?
To test for the Hepatitis B virus, your doctor will collect a sample of your blood. The samples are sent to a lab and tested to see if you have been infected with it.
What does “non-reactive” mean on a Hepatitis B test?
The term “non-reactive” describes a result of a Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) screen, which tests for the presence of the Hepatitis B virus in your blood. A non-reactive result means that you do not have the Hepatitis B virus.
The presence of antibodies (IgM anti-HBc) and results from HBsAg can be used to assess recovery from a previous infection and help differentiate between acute and chronic infections.
What can cause a false positive or negative on a Hepatitis B test?
The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can mutate and lose the ability to produce surface antigens. An antigen mutation can cause false-negative results for HBV. False positive results can be caused by recent vaccination.
Your doctor will assess the need to repeat testing depending on your overall results.
Why is the Hepatitis B test important?
The Hepatitis B test is important because it can help diagnose if a patient has been infected with the virus. A positive result indicates current or prior exposure to the virus and can lead to medical attention. If left untreated, it can become a chronic condition and lead to greater health complications.
If your results are positive, speak to your doctor for guidance regarding further steps.
Do I need to visit a doctor?
Nope. You don't need a doctor's visit to get a test with us.
How do I get my results?
You'll get your results via email as soon as they are available. We will notify you via SMS as well. You can also see them at any time in the future right in your dashboard where you can easily share them with your professional and compare them side by side with future tests.
Does my lab prescription expire?
We're the only lab that honors your lab order forever.