What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis causes an
inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B and C are spread through infected blood
and body fluids. This happens most often during sexual contact (hepatitis B)
and when people share needles to inject drugs (hepatitis B and C). It can also
happen when an infected person shares items such as razors or
Sometimes a baby is infected at birth because the
mother has hepatitis.
Other causes that are less common
- Getting a tattoo or body piercing with a
needle that was not sterile.
- Getting an accidental needle stick
from a dirty needle.
- Having received a
blood transfusion before 1992 (hepatitis C).
But many people get hepatitis without knowing where the
virus came from. And many people have hepatitis for years without knowing it,
because they have no symptoms.
Either type of hepatitis can cause
serious liver problems, such as
cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure. But some
people never have serious problems.
Most adults who get hepatitis
B have it for a short time and then get better on their own.
people who get hepatitis C eventually have a long-term infection that may never
go away, even with treatment.
What is the test for hepatitis?
A small amount of
blood is drawn from your arm. The blood is sent to a lab for testing. The test
looks for hepatitis
antibodies. Having these antibodies means that you
have been exposed to hepatitis, but it does not mean that you now have an
active hepatitis infection.
If the first test shows that you have
been exposed to hepatitis, your blood may then be tested again to look for the
genetic material of the virus and identify its type. The second test shows
whether you actually have a hepatitis infection. For the second test, the lab
may use some of the blood that was already drawn, or you may need to have more
What are the benefits of getting tested for hepatitis B and C?
- Getting tested can lead to early treatment,
which may help prevent a long-term infection.
- If you test positive,
you may be able to help others by making sure people who may have given you the
disease get tested. People you may have infected also could be
- If your test for hepatitis B is negative, you can get a
vaccine to keep you from ever getting that disease. A vaccine is a shot that
protects your body from a specific disease. There is no vaccine for hepatitis
What are the risks of getting tested for hepatitis B?
An acute or new hepatitis B infection in adults usually does not need to
be treated and goes away on its own. But in some people it leads to long-term
disease and serious liver problems. If you find out you have long-term
(chronic) hepatitis B, you may face a decision about whether to go through
treatment. Some of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B have few or no side
effects. But others can cause serious side effects, such as constant tiredness,
headaches, fever, nausea, thyroid problems, or depression.
What are the risks of getting tested for hepatitis C?
If you find out you have hepatitis C, you may face a tough decision about
treatment. The medicines can cause serious side effects, such as constant
tiredness, headaches, fever, nausea, depression, thyroid problems, and many
more. Some people who start treatment stop, because the medicine makes them too
ill to finish. And the treatment does not always work.
If you need more information, see the topics
Hepatitis B and