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Understanding Hepatitis -- Diagnosis and Treatment

How Do I Know If I Have Hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis A (HAV), is diagnosed by your symptoms, a physical exam, blood tests, imaging studies such as a sonogram or CAT scan, and often a liver biopsy.

Hepatitis: Who's at Risk?

Recommended Related to Hepatitis

Hepatitis C Tests

Chronic hepatitis C infection often has no symptoms. It is usually first suspected when a blood test shows an elevation in liver enzymes. One liver enzyme called alanine aminotransferase (ALT) can indicate hepatitis C infection when elevated. Many infections, toxins, and diseases can cause elevations in ALT. Your doctor must perform specific hepatitis C tests to confirm the diagnosis. The first test for hepatitis C infection is a blood test for hepatitis C antibody. Your body produces this antibody...

Read the Hepatitis C Tests article > >

For hepatitis C, the CDC recommends that you have a blood test if any of the following is true:

  • You have been notified that you received blood from a donor who later tested positive for the disease
  • You have ever injected drugs, even once many years ago
  • You received a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992
  • You received a blood product used to treat clotting problems that was made before 1987
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965
  • You have had long-term kidney dialysis
  • You have signs or symptoms of liver disease
  • You have HIV
  • You have a known exposure to HCV

Other people who should consider getting tested for hepatitis C virus include:

  • Children born to HCV-positive mothers (check only after 18 months of age to avoid a false positive result) 
  • Household members of an infected person if toothbrushes, razors, or other objects that may transmit HCV have been shared
  • Hospital and other health care facility workers after a needle stick or exposure to the blood of a person with HCV
  • Public safety and emergency medical workers after a needle stick or exposure to the blood of a person with HCV
  • People who have had a tattoo or a body part pierced with non-disposable needles and ink
  • The sex partner of an HCV-positive person, if traumatic sex or bleeding due to breaks in the skin or other reasons (such as prostatitis -- an inflammation of the prostate gland with occasional bleeding) may have occurred. HCV is generally not transmitted through sexual contact.

The following people who are at increased risk for contracting hepatitis B virus include:

  • People who received a blood or a blood-product transfusion prior to 1975
  • Hospital and health care workers
  • Household members of an infected person
  • Intravenous drugs users (both present and former users)
  • People who have had a tattoo or a body part pierced with an infected needle
  • Sex partners of infected people
  • Travelers to countries where HBV is endemic
  • People who were born to a mother infected with HBV
  • Transplant-organ recipients who received an infected organ

The following groups of people should be screened for hepatitis B virus:

  • People born in areas where HBV is endemic
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Intravenous drug users (both present and former users)
  • Dialysis patients
  • HIV-infected people
  • Pregnant women
  • Family members, household members, and sex partners of HBV-infected people (even if sex occurred on only one occasion)
  • People who have had more than one sex partner within 6 months

Otherwise, routine screening for hepatitis typically is not recommended unless you have symptoms or signs (such as abnormal liver-related blood tests) of the condition.

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