Diagnosis of Hepatitis B

Even healthy people are sometimes tested for hepatitis B infection since it can cause liver damage even before any signs and symptoms appear. Testing people who are at a higher risk of contracting the infection enables doctors to start treatment that can delay, prevent or slow down the liver damage. Those who are advised to undergo screening for hepatitis B include:
  • Individuals who have had sexual relations with infected individuals
  • Individuals with HIV
  • Those who inject drugs
  • Men who have sexual relations with men
  • Inmates
  • Individuals who undergo kidney dialysis
  • Individuals who take medications that suppress the immune system
  • Pregnant women
The diagnosis of Hepatitis B is done through the following blood tests:

  • The hepatitis surface antigen test checks for an active hepatitis B infection that can spread easily to others.
  • The antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen test checks if there are antibodies to the hepatitis B virus present in the blood. The presence of antibodies may be indicative of a previous infection. It could also indicate that you have already been vaccinated.
  • The antibody to hepatitis B core antigen test detects people who have an infection. If this test yields positive results, then it is indicative of a chronic infection which can pass on to others. It could also mean that you are recovering from an acute infection. The results of the other tests will help to interpret the results of this one.
The additional tests for Hepatitis B include:

  • Hepatitis B e-Antigen (HBeAg): This blood test checks for the protein secreted by cells infected by the hepatitis B virus.
  • Hepatitis B DNA Test: This test detects traces of the virus DNA in the blood. It is helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of antiviral treatment.
  • Liver Function Tests: These tests help to evaluate the extent of damage that has taken place in the liver cells.
  • Liver Biopsy: A small sample of the liver tissue is obtained and analyzed in the laboratory.

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