The Hepatitis Panel includes tests to screen for the Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that may be caused by alcohol or drug use or by a medical condition. It may also be caused by a virus. Hepatitis, if left untreated, can cause permanent liver damage or liver cancer. The liver is important for metabolism, digestion, detoxifying the body and producing critical proteins. The Hepatitis Panel screens for antibodies or antigens to the virus. There are three hepatitis viruses that and each is transmitted differently.
- Hepatitis A can be transmitted through contact with contaminated food or water and is a risk for those who travel outside the United States.
- Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and is contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids or unprotected sexual intercourse, especially with multiple partners.
- Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus transmitted through the exchange of blood from a tainted blood transfusion or the sharing of needles frequently used for illegal drugs.
Many people who contract hepatitis are not aware that they have the virus because symptoms during the acute or initial phase may be very mild. Hepatitis A is very contagious and spread by food or water contaminated by someone who did not wash their hands after using the bathroom, then touched and prepared foods or drinks. It usually clears from the body on its own and does no permanent damage. Symptoms of hepatitis may be nausea, fatigue, poor appetite, belly pain and a mild fever or even jaundice but there may be no symptoms at all.
The CDC advises the following groups be tested for hepatitis C:
- Those born between 1945 and 1965
- Past or present IV drug users (this include one-time users)
- Organ or blood recipients prior to July 1992
- Those treated for blood clotting problems before 1987
- Anyone with abnormal liver tests (e.g., ALT test) or liver disease
- Health care workers who may have been exposed to blood
- Those with HIV
Hepatitis B and C is more difficult to recover from and may linger in the body for years. Hepatitis B may clear from the body on its own, but some people are not able to eliminate the virus. Chronic hepatitis can cause liver damage that could go unnoticed until it is severe and has caused liver failure or has developed into liver cancer. 25% of those who contract hepatitis C are able to clear the virus from their bodies after the initial infection but the rest will carry the virus for the rest of their lives. Anti-viral treatments are sometimes effective in treating and curing the disease but not always.
If you have contracted hepatitis B or C your doctor will need to monitor you and you will need to take precautions to protect your liver such as avoiding alcohol and checking with your doctor before taking medications that put a strain on your liver.
WHY DO I NEED IT?
Hepatitis is a serious disease that can permanently damage the liver. Liver failure or liver cancer can be fatal because the liver is critical for detoxifying the body and producing necessary proteins. If you are in a high risk group due to frequent unprotected sex with multiple partners or the use of injected illegal drugs you should be tested for hepatitis for your own health and to protect those you love who may be exposed.
The Hepatitis Panel consists of the following tests:
- Hepatitis B Surface Antigen
- Hepatitis C Antibodies
Hepatitis A Antibodies