Hepatitis B cannot just be diagnosed haphazardly. There are many indications and symptoms to be met before a specific diagnosis of Hepatitis B can be reached.
Medical History and a Physical Examination
The first things to consider are medical history and/or a physical examination of the patient. If the patient’s background and habits indicate that he is at risk of contracting Hepatitis B, suspicions could be raised. Suspicions can also arise from a direct physical examination’s results like abnormalities in the blood and liver. However, these tests can be flawed and even medical history is not completely conclusive for a final diagnosis. Suspicions can be raised but nothing conclusive can be garnered this way.
Antigens as markers of Hepatitis B
There are certain markers in the blood that can make final confirmation of a Hepatitis B infection. They can even confirm an acute or a chronic infection. The markers are effective because they are products produced from the Hepatitis B virus directly and the antibodies that are produced to combat the disease. The virus is known as the antigens and the Hepatitis B virus is composed of three antigens which are sought after during testing. They are:
- The core antigen or HBcAg
- The surface antigen or HBsAg
- The E antigen of HBeAg
The surface antigen HBsAg
Detection of the surface antigen or HBsAg is a clear sign that of infection in a person. The surface antigen manifests at around four weeks from contracting the Hepatitis virus. If a person successfully recovers from the Hepatitis B virus all traces of the surface antigen HBsAg is removed from the bloodstream after around four months from the time the symptoms manifested themselves. This individual is able to develop specific antibodies against HBsAg. These antibodies are called Anti-HBs. They give the person immunity from any more Hepatitis B infections. These antibodies can also be gained through vaccination.
Chronic Hepatitis B diagnosis
If a patient does not successfully clear the virus during a chronic episode will result in chronic Hepatitis B. Diagnosis of chronic Hepatitis B is confirmed if HBsAg remains in the blood for a minimum of 6months. Chronic Hepatitis B can mark the onset of HBsAg for years with still no anti-HBs being produced by the body.
Sometimes some individuals infected with the Hepatitis B virus experience a pre-core mutation. A pre-core mutation occurs if the genetic material of the virus undergoes a distinct change in structure. This change of structure or mutation makes the virus unable to produce HBeAg in spite of its continuous reproduction. So even though they have no HBaAg in their system, they are still with Hepatitis B and can still spread the virus.
Hepatitis B DNA
Hepatitis B DNA is the best indication of the Hepatitis B virus in an individual. If a sample of the individual’s blood contains Hepatitis B DNA it is a clear indication that the Hepatitis B virus is fast multiplying. HBV DNA appears very soon after getting infected with acute hepatitis. HBV DNA is removed over time as the patient recovers from acute hepatitis. HBV DNA levels are also known as the ‘viral load.’