Hepatitis B is a life-threatening liver infection from the virus called the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is generally spread through sex. We will cover Hepatitis B symptoms and much more in this article.
Hepatitis B infection may be either Acute (Short-lived) or chronic (long-lasting).
- Acute hepatitis B infection which lasts less than six months. Your immune system likely clears acute hepatitis B from your body, and you will recover completely within a few months. Adults who get hepatitis B have an acute infection, which can lead to chronic infection.
- Chronic hepatitis B infection generally lasts for six months or longer. It lingers because your immune system struggles to fight off the infection. Chronic HBV infection may last for a lifetime, leading to the risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis, a condition that permanently scars of the liver.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 257 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection and about 887,000 deaths, mostly from cirrhosis and primary liver cancer.
The article below covers all the relevant topics of hepatitis B-viral infection like Hepatitis B test cost, Hepatitis B symptoms, hepatitis B transmission, Hepatitis B treatment, complications, and how to get tested for a Hepatitis B infection.
- What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
- Is hepatitis B an STD?
- What are hepatitis B causes?
- How is hepatitis B transmitted?
- Hepatitis B treatment
- Vaccine for hepatitis B
- Complications of the Hepatitis B infection
- How to get tested for Hepatitis B infection?
- How is the Hepatitis B blood test performed?
- Is there any preparation required before the test?
- Are there any risks in the test?
- What does the test result mean?
- How to prevent Hepatitis B infection?
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is also called a “SILENT KILLER” because even if you don’t show any symptoms, the virus might be active and causing liver damage in your body. The signs and symptoms of hepatitis B start from mild to severe. Many individuals do not experience any symptoms when newly infected. The symptoms of HBV usually appear in one to four months after you’ve been infected, although you can see the symptoms as early as two weeks post-infection. But usually, a few people or young children may not have any symptoms.
The signs and symptoms of Hepatitis B may include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice),
- Dark urine
- Extreme fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
However, few people have an acute disease with symptoms that last for several weeks. A person with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death. The hepatitis B virus can also cause a chronic liver disease which later develops into cirrhosis, a scarring of the liver or liver cancer.
Is hepatitis B an STD?
Hundreds of people are affected by Hepatitis B every year. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease, but it can also spread in other ways, too. This virus exists on almost any surface for up to one month. One might get infected by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Hepatitis B virus can spread through unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Few sexual activities are more efficient at spreading hepatitis B than others. Oral sex has a lower rate of hepatitis B transmission than vaginal sex. Anal sex has a very high risk of transmission because the tears that occur in the skin during penetration improves the transmission of HBV.
What are hepatitis B causes?
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus called hepatitis B virus (HBV).
The number of people who get this disease has decreased according to the CDC. Rates have dropped up to around 20,000 diagnosed individuals. People between the ages of 20 and 49 are most infected by HBV. Only 5% to 10% of adults and children older than 5 ends up with chronic Hepatitis. But the numbers for those younger than 5 and even higher for infants infected at birth aren’t so good.
How is hepatitis B transmitted?
Hepatitis B is a contagious disease that is transmitted through contact from semen, vaginal fluids, and blood. You can also get it from:
- Vaginal, anal, or oral sex. But using a condom or a dental dam during sex can help prevent HBV.
- By sharing toothbrushes or razors in which blood of the infected may carry.
- Sharing the used needles for tattoos, piercing, and shooting drugs.
Hepatitis B is also habitually transmitted from a mother to her child during birth and delivery. It is said that adults with hepatitis B recover fully, even if the signs and symptoms are severe. But Infants and children are more likely to develop Hepatitis B infection which can be chronic which means long-lasting.
You may question how my partner isn’t infected when I just tested positive. This is a common question. Hepatitis B can’t spread through saliva (spit). Therefore, it is clear that Hepatitis B can’t spread from sharing food, drinks, or using the same fork or spoon. It also cannot spread through kissing, hugging, holding, hands, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding.
Hepatitis B treatment
However, in most people, the treatment does not cure hepatitis B infection, only suppresses the replication of the virus. Therefore, those who start hepatitis B treatment must continue it for the rest of their life. There is only limited access to diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B. But generally, many people are diagnosed only when they already have advanced liver disease. There is no particular treatment for acute hepatitis B. But the care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance. Chronic hepatitis B can be treated with medications that include oral antiviral agents. However, this treatment can slow the progression of cirrhosis, will reduce the incidence of liver cancer, and improve the chance of long term survival.
When an individual has long-term complications of HBV infections, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma cause a large disease burden. This can rapidly progress liver cancer and since treatment options are limited, the outcome is generally poor. In low-income settings, most people affected with liver cancer will die within a few months of diagnosis. But in high-income countries, with the help of surgery and chemotherapy can prolong life for a few years. In high-income countries, liver transplantation is sometimes used in people with cirrhosis which varies success.
Vaccine for hepatitis B
It is very important to take precautions if you are infected, as it may help in preventing the spread of Hepatitis B to others. The vaccine is the mainstay of hepatitis B prevention. Only a vaccine can prevent the condition. WHO recommends all infants to receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours after birth. In most of the cases, the following 2 options are considered appropriate:
- Hepatitis B vaccine, a 3-dose schedule with the first dose (monovalent) given at the time of birth and the second and third doses (monovalent or combined vaccine) given at the same time, the first and the third doses of diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus – (DTP vaccine).
- Secondly, a 4-dose schedule, where a monovalent birth dose is followed by 3 monovalent or combined vaccine doses, usually given with other routine infant vaccines.
The hepatitis B vaccine is generally recommended for:
- Children and adults those who are not vaccinated at birth
- Those who work or even live in a center for those people who are developmentally disabled
- People who live with someone who is infected with HBV
- Health care workers, emergency workers and other people who come into contact with blood or any other body fluids
- Anyone who is infected with a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV
- Men who have sex with other men
- People who have multiple sexual partners
- Sexual partners who have hepatitis B
- People who inject illegal drugs or share needles and syringes with others
- People having chronic liver disease
- People with end-stage of kidney disease
- Travelers planning to go to the places where there is a high level of hepatitis B infection rate
Complications of the Hepatitis B infection:
Having an HBV infection can lead to serious complications, such as:
Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
An extensive liver scarring (cirrhosis) leads to the inflammation associated with a hepatitis B infection, which eventually may impair the liver ‘s ability to function.
People having hepatitis B infection have an increased risk of liver cancer.
Liver failure is a condition in which the important functions of the liver shuts down. When it occurs, liver transplantation becomes highly necessary for an individual to sustain life.
People with hepatitis B may develop kidney diseases like kidney failure or even inflammation of blood vessels.
How to get tested for Hepatitis B infection?
We have shortlisted the top 3 laboratories networks providing Hepatitis B Testing in the US, mentioned them below.
Hepatitis B test cost ranges between 24$ and $52 in different labs and facilities across the U.S. The cost of the HBV test also depends on the type of test i.e. HBV antibody & Hepatitis antigen test.
No prior appointment is required. Compare the cost, order your test online and visit the nearest lab during lab business hours. Complete the procedure and get the results in your email in 2 to 3 business days.
Hepatitis B surface antigen test
Hepatitis B antigen test is done to detect the actual presence of the hepatitis B virus (called the “surface antigen”) in your blood.
The following table shows the HBV antigen test cost at 3 of our partner laboratories (CLIA – Certified) network located across the U.S.
Name of our Partner Labs
Hepatitis B surface antibody test
Hepatitis B surface antibody test is done to evaluate the presence of immune antibodies against the hepatitis B virus after receiving the vaccine.
The following table shows the HBV antibody test cost at 3 of our partner laboratories (CLIA – Certified) network located across the U.S.
Name of our Partner Labs
How is the Hepatitis B blood test performed?
Your physician will examine you and look for signs and symptoms of liver damage, such as yellowing skin (jaundice) or belly pain. Following are the tests that help to determine hepatitis B infection:
Hepatitis B surface antigen test (HBaAg)
Hepatitis B antigen test is done to detect the presence of the hepatitis B virus in your blood. If the test results are positive then further testing is needed to determine the exact stage of the virus.
Hepatitis B surface antibody test (anti-HBs)
This test is done to rule out the presence of antibodies against the hepatitis B virus. If the test results are positive it indicates that you are protected against the hepatitis B virus. This test is usually done after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine or successfully recovering from a past hepatitis B infection, thus it helps to determine whether the vaccine is working well or not.
Hepatitis B core antibody test (anti-HBc)
Hepatitis B core antibodies test is a comprehensive test that can only be understood by assessing the results of the first two tests (HBsAg and anti-HBs). A positive hepatitis core antibody (anti-HBc or HBcAb) test result requires consulting with your health care provider for a complete explanation of your hepatitis B status.
Is there any preparation required before the test?
No fasting or any other special preparation is required before taking the HBV test. If you have any abnormal bleeding disorder, inform the phlebotomist before taking the test.
Are there any risks in the test?
There are no possible risks or complications in taking the Hepatitis B blood test. But sometimes, after the blood sample is drawn, you might feel slight pain, dizziness, redness, or bruise in the injected area for a very little period.
What does the test result mean?
If the Hepatitis antigen test results are positive then you are exposed to the hepatitis B virus. Further tests like Hepatitis B antibody and HBV core antibody test is done to rule out the exact stage of the infection.
If the test results are negative it indicated that you are not affected by the hepatitis B virus.
After receiving the vaccine, your physician may ask to take a Hepatitis antibody test to check whether the injected antibodies are working well against the hepatitis B virus. If the test results are positive it means that the antibodies are present and you are recovering well from the hepatitis B infection.
In the case of negative hepatitis B antibody test results, it means that the antibodies are not present in the blood and you are vulnerable to the hepatitis B infection.
How to prevent hepatitis B infection?
- Know the HBV status of your sexual partner. Don’t engage in any unprotected sexual activities unless and until you’re certain that your partner isn’t infected with HBV infection or any other sexually transmitted infections.
- Don’t use any illegal drugs. If you use illicit drugs, try and stop doing that. If you can’t stop, use a sterile needle whenever you inject illicit drugs. Never share needles with others.
- Be very cautious about body piercing and tattooing. If you get a piercing or tattoo, look for a reputable shop that maintains good hygiene. Ask if the equipment is cleaned on a daily basis. Always, make sure the employees use sterile needles. If you don’t get answers for these, look for another shop.
- Always ask about the hepatitis B vaccine before you travel. If you’re traveling to a country or a region where hepatitis B infection is common, ask your doctor about the HBV vaccine in advance. HBV vaccine is usually given in a series of three injections over a six-month period.
Hepatitis B testing can be done in any of the following locations across the U.S. by visiting the lab. To know the HBV test cost, refer to the above tabular column.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Frequently Asked Questions
Will insurance cover my testing cost?
No, insurance will not be covered in the billing. However, they will provide you a receipt for insurance reimbursement purposes.
How should I book my appointment?
You can choose the most suitable provider from above and make an appointment by following the instructions mentioned by them.
Can I cancel my lab test order?
Yes, you can cancel your lab test order anytime before your testing. A refund will be initiated after deducting the cancellation fee. However, cancellation is at the discretion of the provider.
Do the providers offer result interpretations?
Yes, a few providers may provide doctor consultation who will take you through the results and provide clarification if needed.
How do I receive my report?
To ensure your privacy, the test report will be mailed to you by the provider.
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