The Hep B blood test is used in several different ways. It may be used to detect antibodies that are produced when the hepatitis B virus [HBV] is present within the body. It may also be used to detect the antigens that the virus can produce. It can also be used to detect the actual DNA of the virus. All of these tests are not generally needed for every patient, but can provide useful medical information to enhance the effectiveness of a treatment plan.
The primary use of the Hep B blood test is to determine if hepatitis-like symptoms are due to an HBV infection. It may be ordered with HAV and HCV blood tests to fully eliminate hepatitis as the health issue. It can also be used to diagnose a chronic HBV infection, monitor the implementation of a treatment plan, or detect exposure to the virus when it becomes reactivated.
The test results from the HBV blood test are conclusive. It can be used as a screening tool for those who are not infected or to determine if someone may be a carrier for the virus.
The Hep B Blood Test Takes on Three Common Stages
The initial testing process for HBV is usually completed in 3 stages. The first stage detects the protein that is present on the virus itself. The second stage detects the antibodies that are produced by the surface antigens, while the third stage detects antibodies created to combat the core antigen of the virus. If any of these 3 initial tests are positive, then follow-up testing will be ordered to determine the status of the infection.
Follow-up testing may have 5 stages. The goal is to detect specific antibodies and proteins to determine if the infection is acute or chronic. Genetic materials are also searched for to determine how contagious an individual happens to be when an active HBV infection has been detected. Genetic testing of the virus will also help to detect mutations of the virus so that a treatment plan can be developed.
When To Ask a Doctor About the Hep B Blood Test
HBV directly affects the liver. Acute and chronic hepatitis may have similar signs and symptoms, but the acute infection may have more severe symptoms. Speak to a doctor about the benefits of having the Hep B blood test run if you are experiencing abdominal pain, a loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, and joint pain that does not improve over a day or two. Dark urine, pale stools, and yellowing of the eyes and skin are clear indications that liver health has been affected.
Certain demographics are at a higher risk of an HBV infection than others. People who work in healthcare settings or are public safety workers should have regular screenings done to determine their health status. People who have not been vaccinated against the virus and are born in high risk areas should also have the Hep B blood test. Men who are intimate with other men, women who are pregnant, and people with elevated liver enzymes that do not have an explanation are also at a higher than average risk of having HBV.
What Do the Hep B Blood Test Results Mean?
The test results are based on the staging process. People who test negative for all initial staging blood tests do not have an active or prior infection. Testing positive for the second initial stage indicates an individual was vaccinated. Testing positive on the second and third initial stages indicates the infection has been cleared and a natural immunity is present, but the virus could reactivate. A first state initial positive result almost always indicates an active or chronic infection.
Follow-up testing helps to determine the status of the infection itself. This will help medical providers begin crafting a treatment plan that can treat this virus. The one exception to this would be patients who test positive for a chronic infection, but are at a low risk of liver damage. This indicates an individual is a carrier for HBV.
Some strains of HBV from Asia and the Middle East do not always respond well to the testing process and may not be detected. Always talk to a medical provider about travel habits so that the Hep B blood test doesn’t come back with false results.
HBV may also lead to a fourth form of hepatitis called HDV. HDV is believed to only be able to co-exist when HBV is present. Infection rates for HDV tend to be low, but may not be well tracked in certain regions of the world.
HBV can cause liver damage even when there are no symptoms being experienced. This virus can also be spread to others even when there are no active symptoms. For this reason, if you suspect that you may have been exposed to this virus or you are part of a high risk demographic, the Hep B blood test is something to consider having performed by your medical provider immediately.