Hepatitis is a type of liver disease. Viruses called hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common causes of hepatitis. A hepatitis panel is a blood test that checks to see if you have a hepatitis infection caused by one of these viruses.
The viruses are spread in different ways and cause different symptoms:
- Hepatitis Ais most often spread by contact with contaminated feces (stool) or by eating tainted food. Though uncommon, it can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Most people recover from hepatitis A without any lasting liver damage.
- Hepatitis Bis spread through contact with infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. Some people recover quickly from a hepatitis B infection. For others, the virus can cause long-term, chronic liver disease.
- Hepatitis Cis most often spread by contact with infected blood, usually through sharing of hypodermic needles. Though uncommon, it can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Many people with hepatitis C develop chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
A hepatitis panel includes tests for hepatitis antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces to help fight infections. Antigens are substances that cause an immune response. Antibodies and antigens can be detected before symptoms appear.
Other names: acute hepatitis panel, viral hepatitis panel, hepatitis screening panel
What is it used for?
A hepatitis panel is used to find out if you have a hepatitis virus infection.
Why do I need a hepatitis panel?
You may need a hepatitis panel if you have symptoms of liver damage. These symptoms include:
- Jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and eyes to turn yellow
- Loss of appetite
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale-colored stool
- Nausea and vomiting
You may also need a hepatitis panel if you have certain risk factors. You may be at a higher risk for a hepatitis infection if you:
- Use illegal, injectable drugs
- Have a sexually transmitted disease
- Are in close contact with someone infected with hepatitis
- Are on long-term dialysis
- Were born between 1945 and 1965, often referred to as the baby boom years. Though the reasons aren't entirely understood, baby boomers are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults.
What do the results mean?
A negative result means you probably don't have a hepatitis infection. A positive result may mean you have or previously had an infection from hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. You may need more tests to confirm a diagnosis. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.