Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted viral infection that can cause liver disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hepatitis B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. There are more than 200,000 cases in the U.S. per year. While hepatitis B is not exclusively an STD, it is commonly spread through sex. It is transmitted through contact with certain bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluids, blood and urine. While it is most commonly transmitted by having vaginal, anal or oral sex, it can also be transmitted by sharing toothbrushes or razors (if they have infected blood on them from bleeding gums or nicks) or sharing needles for shooting drugs, piercings or tattoos. It can also be passed to babies during birth if their mother has been infected. Hepatitis is not spread through saliva, so you can’t contract it by kissing, sneezing, coughing or sharing food or drinks.
The most common strains of hepatitis are A, B and C. Of the three, hepatitis B is the strain most commonly transmitted through sexual contact. There is currently no cure for hepatitis, but the infection does usually go away on its own. However, in some cases, it can develop into something more severe or become a chronic infection. One in five people with chronic hepatitis B will die from complications resulting from the virus.
How is Hepatitis B Prevented?
There is currently a vaccine for hepatitis B, and getting the vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent hepatitis B infection. Most people are vaccinated at birth or in their early childhood, and the vaccine provides protection for life, so they will not need additional vaccinations or treatments. If you’re not sure if you were vaccinated, ask your parents or primary care physician. Your doctor, whether or not they have a record of you receiving the vaccine, should be able to counsel you on whether or not getting the vaccine is right for you.
While the vaccine is very effective at preventing the spread of hepatitis B and preventing hepatitis B infections in those vaccinated, you can’t get the vaccine if you are already infected with hepatitis B.
To help prevent the spread of hepatitis B, use condoms and dental dams. Do not share needles, razors, or toothbrushes. If any of these hygienic items are exposed to blood infected with the hepatitis B virus (either through pokes, nicks, or bleeding gums), sharing them with an infected person could cause you to contract hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is not contracted through hugging, kissing, holding hands, sharing food, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding.
Why Should I Order a Hepatitis B Test?
You should be tested for hepatitis B if you have had unprotected sex or think you’ve been exposed to the virus in any way. If you’re experiencing any symptoms that could be related to hepatitis B infection, you should get tested right away.
You might be thinking: If hepatitis B usually clears up on its own, what’s the point of getting tested? While hepatitis B usually does go away on its own, it’s important to know when and if you contract the virus so you and your doctor can closely monitor if the virus appears chronically. Chronic hepatitis can lead to serious complications that include cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. It’s also important to know if you have the virus so you can prevent passing it to partners and spare them the same risks.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?
The most common symptom of hepatitis B is to exhibit no symptoms at all. About half of adults with hepatitis B never show symptoms of the virus. If symptoms do present, they can often be mild or feel like other illnesses, such as the flu or common cold; in other words, symptoms that are not typical of a sexually transmitted virus. Symptoms of acute hepatitis B (which will go away as your body fights off infection) are the same as those of chronic hepatitis B, so there’s no way to tell if your infection is acute or chronic based on the symptoms alone.
When and if symptoms present, they usually show up between six weeks and six months after contracting the virus. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches
- Itchy skin
- Joint pain
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale, clay-colored bowel movements
How Long Should I Wait Before Getting Tested?
The incubation period for hepatitis B can be 45 to 160 days, so it’s recommend to wait until after this time to get tested to ensure the most accurate results. Hepatitis B testing screens for certain antibodies in the blood, so if you get tested before the necessary amount of antibodies have formed, it could cause the test to return a falsely negative result.
What Can I Expect When I Get Tested?
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of hepatitis B or otherwise think you might have been exposed to or infected with hepatitis B, it’s paramount that you be tested as soon as you can. Getting tested quickly is especially urgent if you are pregnant or think you could soon become pregnant. Because it is so contagious, the hepatitis B virus can easily be passed to the baby during pregnancy and could cause much more severe issues and complications than you might deal with on your own.
Even if you see your doctor, gynecologist or obstetrician regularly, you can’t assume that you’ve been tested or otherwise screened for hepatitis B or any other sexually transmitted disease or infection unless your doctor has explicitly stated such or you have explicitly asked. STD tests and screenings aren’t typically a part of most routine visits, so if you want to be tested for anything specific, you’ll need to ask your doctor or nurse directly. In most cases, they should be able to fulfill your request with a routine blood test. It’s important to note, however, that if you have been infected with hepatitis B, the test could return a false negative if you were infected in the past two months. This is because it can take up to two months after exposure to the virus for the body to develop the antibodies that the hepatitis B test screens for. If you think you have a good idea of when you might have been infected with the virus, try to wait at least two months before getting tested. If you get tested and receive a negative result, but then experience symptoms later on, you should be retested.
What Can I Expect from Hepatitis B Treatment?
While there is no cure for hepatitis B, symptoms do typically go away on their own after four to eight weeks. At least 90% of all adults who contract hepatitis B fully recover. If your symptoms go away on their own, you may not need any further treatment.
However, for those infected with hepatitis B who end up experiencing chronic symptoms, there are ways you can live a better, healthier life with the virus. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms of the virus. It’s important to consult with your doctor about what medications you can use for treatment, as certain over-the-counter medicines can have harmful interactions with the liver, which is exacerbated by the hepatitis virus.
If you have chronic hepatitis B, remember that you are a carrier for the virus. Even if you are taking medication and are showing no hepatitis B symptoms, you will likely be contagious for the rest of your life. Be sure to stay aware of this and always utilize safer sex practices.
What Are the Benefits of a Hepatitis B Test?
The only way to know whether you have hepatitis B or not is to get tested. Early detection and treatment is essential to prevent hepatitis B from developing into serious liver health issues.
As soon as you decide to get hepatitis B testing, you can set up a testing appointment through Priority STD Testing online or over the phone. When ordering online, select the local testing center most convenient to you and the STD you’d like to test for to set up an appointment. If you call Priority STD Testing, our care counselors can set up the appointment for you, as well as answer any questions you may have. Once your appointment has been set up, all you have to do is show up at the testing center and give the required sample. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes. Your test results are processed within 24 to 72 hours. You can retrieve your results at any time after your hepatitis B testing by calling Priority STD Testing. In order to protect your privacy, we will not send results to you without you contacting us first.
At Priority STD Testing, we strive to make regular STD testing affordable, especially for individuals without insurance. We do not accept any form of private or federal health insurance, with the exception of allowing the use of health savings account (HSA) cards for payment. We do this so that your test results are not communicated to your insurance company and are not included as part of your medical record.
Peace of Mind
Hepatitis B can be deadly if it’s not detected early. Ordering hepatitis B testing is the only way to set your mind at ease and know if you either do not have hepatitis B or if you do and can begin treatment. Be proactive about your health, as well as the health of your partners, by getting tested.
How Do I Order a Hepatitis B Test?
Hepatitis B testing through Priority STD Testing can be ordered online or over the phone. Our care counselors are available over the phone to set up an appointment for you at a local testing center and answer your questions about hepatitis B or the testing process.Get Tested Now