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.
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...
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)
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.