About the Test
Purpose of the test
The purpose of hepatitis B testing is to detect whether a person has a hepatitis B infection. As there are several tests needed to diagnose and monitor an HBV infection, testing is usually coordinated by a physician. Blood samples used for testing are typically collected in a medical setting like a doctor’s office or hospital.
Test kits are available that allow individuals to collect blood samples at home and mail them to a laboratory for hepatitis B testing. Because at-home HBV testing includes only one of the several tests needed to diagnose and assess this infection, at-home testing is not a substitute for testing conducted by a doctor.
The following sections include information about the purposes of at-home and physician-ordered hepatitis B tests.
Purpose of an at-home hepatitis B test
Hepatitis B home tests allow individuals to collect a blood sample at home if a hepatitis B infection is suspected. The blood sample is then mailed to a laboratory for testing. At the laboratory, the blood sample is analyzed to determine if hepatitis B surface antigens (HBsAg) are present.
Although there are no guidelines for the use of at-home hepatitis B tests in the United States, they may help some people uncover signs of an HBV infection at an earlier point.
Internationally, the World Health Organization has recommended the use of at-home testing methods when access to a doctor or a blood drawing facility is limited.
Purpose of a physician-ordered hepatitis B test
The purpose of hepatitis B testing that is ordered by a doctor is to diagnose and understand a hepatitis B infection, assess past exposure to HBV, or determine a person’s immunity to the virus.
A doctor may order a hepatitis B test for one of several reasons.
Screening tests look for a health condition prior to the onset of symptoms. Screening for hepatitis B in groups at a high risk of contracting this virus is important because many people with hepatitis B have no symptoms. High risk groups include individuals who have come in close contact or intimate contact with an infected individual, people with HIV, and IV drug users.
Diagnostic testing is used to identify a disease or health condition after symptoms have started. Testing can diagnose hepatitis B, evaluate the need for treatment, and determine whether a person can spread the virus to others.
Assessing immunity is important in determining immunity status to this virus after a patient receives a hepatitis B vaccine or recovers from a past infection. In some patients, the hepatitis B virus can reactivate later in life and cause health complications. HBV testing can help to identify patients that are at an increased risk of future HBV reactivation.
Monitoring patients after a diagnosis of hepatitis B assists doctors in following the progression of the infection, finding potential health complications, and evaluating a patient’s response to treatment.
What does the test measure?
At-home hepatitis B tests measure hepatitis B surface antigens (HBsAg). Hepatitis B surface antigens are proteins on the outside of the hepatitis B virus that trigger an immune system response to fight the infection.
Hepatitis B surface antigens can be detected as early as 2 or as late as 12 weeks after a person was exposed to HBV. In patients who recover from hepatitis B, HBsAg usually becomes undetectable within 4 to 6 months.
When should I get an at-home hepatitis B test?
There are no guidelines about when a person should take an at-home hepatitis B test.
At-home hepatitis B testing is not a confirmation of an HBV infection, but it can offer information that may be helpful when talking to your doctor. Individuals who may have been exposed or at risk must contact their health care provider who can offer specific advice to your needs and order appropriate diagnostic tests. Early symptoms of a hepatitis B infection generally include fever, fatigue, dark urine, off-colored stools, and/or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Benefits and Downsides of an At-Home Hepatitis B Test
If you’re considering testing for hepatitis B at home, it may be helpful to think about its potential benefits and drawbacks.
Some of the benefits of at-home hepatitis B testing include:
- Testing at your convenience: Using an at-home hepatitis B test allows you to take this test anytime without having to leave the privacy of your home.
- Upfront pricing: At-home testing offers clear pricing and a straightforward way to begin a discussion about hepatitis with your doctor.
- Easy blood sample collection: Collecting a blood sample for an at-home hepatitis B test is simple. Using a tiny needle contained in the test kit, you simply prick the skin on your fingertip to produce several drops of blood.
Some of the downsides of at-home hepatitis B testing include:
- Inability to diagnose hepatitis B: At-home hepatitis B testing only measures hepatitis B surface antigens. In order to accurately diagnose and understand a patient’s infection, several additional tests are needed, but those tests are not available in an at-home version.
- Limited access to a doctor: Although some companies that sell at-home hepatitis B test kits schedule a phone call with a doctor if you have abnormal results, these consultations may not include a full discussion of your symptoms and other health concerns.
Risk of false negative test results: False negative test results occur when you actually have a hepatitis B infection but the test comes back negative. Because it can take up to 12 weeks after exposure to hepatitis B to develop hepatitis B surface antigens, an at-home test kit may miss an early hepatitis B infection.
Types of At-Home Tests
Several types of at-home hepatitis B tests are available, including both self-collection and rapid tests.
Self-collection tests allow you to obtain a blood sample at home and mail it to a laboratory for hepatitis B testing. Self-collection kits typically include everything you need to obtain a blood sample, package the sample, and send it out for testing.
Self-tests allow you to collect a sample and conduct the test at home from start to finish. Although rapid tests are not commonly used to diagnose hepatitis B, the World Health Organization has suggested that this type of testing may be useful in circumstances where laboratory-based testing is inaccessible.
There are several brands of at-home HBV test kits. The following selections represent our top picks for at-home hepatitis B tests.
Tests for: Hepatitis B surface antigen
Results timeline: 2 to 5 days
The At Home Hepatitis B Test from myLAB Box is our pick for best overall at-home hepatitis B test due to its simple design and free consultations on positive test results.
After you place an order on myLAB Box’s website, your test kit will arrive in 1-3 days. It will contain all of the supplies needed to self-collect a blood sample and forward it to a CLIA-certified laboratory. To produce their test kits, myLAB Box works with top tier manufacturers in the United States.
Collecting the blood sample only takes a few minutes. Your test kit includes a lancet that contains a small needle used to prick your fingertip and draw a few drops of blood. Apply this blood to the test collection device according to the kit’s instructions.
Once you’re finished collecting your sample, package and send your test kit to the laboratory using the prepaid shipping envelope. Within 2-5 days, your sample will be processed and tested for the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen. As soon as results become available, you’ll receive an email notification with a link to your secure online portal.
If your hepatitis B test results are positive, you can get a complimentary consultation with an authorized counselor to address your questions or concerns.
Best Hepatitis Combination Test
LetsGetChecked Hepatitis B & C Test
Price: $89 (Get 25% off with your exclusive Testing.com discount code. Use code TESTING25 at checkout.)
Tests for: Hepatitis B surface antigen, Hepatitis C antibody
Results timeline: 2 to 5 days
LetsGetChecked’s Hepatitis B & C Test offers a way to test for both types of hepatitis in one blood sample. With its informative website and emphasis on customer privacy, the Hepatitis B & C Test from LetsGetChecked is our pick for best hepatitis combination test.
You can purchase the test kit on the LetsGetChecked website, and their team of physicians will review your order before mailing out your sample collection kit. Once your kit arrives, collect your blood sample before 9 a.m. and mail it back on the same day. Shipping is free in the provided prepaid shipping envelope.
To collect your blood sample, you can follow the written instructions provided in the test kit or review the instructional videos on the LetsGetChecked website. Once your sample is received by the CLIA-certified lab, it is analyzed for hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis C antibody.
Please contact UPS to arrange a pickup before you collect your sample. You should collect your sample on the same day as the pickup is scheduled for. Visit the UPS pickup scheduling page or call 1-800-742-5877 to schedule a pickup to return your sample. You’ll be asked to provide some information including your tracking number, pickup address and pickup day and time. Please keep your tracking number to help you track your package.
Online results are available within 2-5 days after the test kit arrives at one of the company’s partner labs. If you have any questions about your physician-reviewed test results, you can discuss your results and treatment options with LetsGetChecked’s dedicated team of nurses.
LetsGetChecked maintains high testing standards. Hepatitis B & C Test kits are manufactured in an ISO13485-accredited facility, and LetsGetChecked partner labs are CLIA-approved and CAP-accredited, reflecting high standards for quality assurance.
LetsGetChecked also accepts FSA and HSA cards and provides a discount for repeat users enrolled in their Subscribe & Save program.
Interpreting At-Home Test Results
The results of at-home hepatitis B testing are often reported as negative or positive.
Negative test results, which may also be reported as “not detected,” indicate that the test did not find hepatitis B surface antigens in the blood sample. There are several potential interpretations of negative test results:
- You do not have acute or chronic hepatitis B
- You have hepatitis B, but your infection occurred too recently to be detected
- You have a “low level” hepatitis B infection that was not detected by the test
Because there are several possible interpretations of a negative test result, it’s important to discuss these results with a doctor.
Positive test results, which may also be reported as “detected,” indicate that hepatitis B surface antigens were present in your test sample. Positive test results indicate that you may have an acute or chronic hepatitis B infection. Testing positive for hepatitis B surface antigens also suggests that you are infectious and able to spread this infection to others.
Regardless of whether your at-home hepatitis B test results are positive or negative, you should review the test results with a doctor. Diagnosing or ruling out an HBV infection requires several additional tests that can only be ordered and interpreted by a trained physician.
Are test results accurate?
Evidence regarding the accuracy of at-home hepatitis B testing is limited. One concern about the accuracy of testing for hepatitis B surface antigens is that they may not detect recent infections. Because it can take up to 12 weeks for HBsAg to develop after exposure to HBV, doctors typically use a different blood test to find early infections.
Concerns about the accuracy of at-home hepatitis B testing should be addressed with a doctor and the company providing at-home test kits. If you’re interested in learning about research that has been conducted about the reliability of at-home testing methods, you can ask the testing company if research has been published about their testing method.
Do I need follow-up tests?
Because at-home hepatitis B testing is not able to conclusively diagnose or rule out hepatitis B, it’s likely that you will need follow-up testing regardless of your at-home test result. Your doctor may recommend repeating hepatitis B surface antigen testing as well as performing other hepatitis B tests and/or an acute viral hepatitis panel.
Questions for your doctor after at-home testing
It’s important to talk to your doctor about at-home hepatitis B test results. Questions for your doctor may include:
- What does my at-home hepatitis B test result mean for my health?
- What is my risk of getting hepatitis B?
- Is periodic testing recommended for me?
- What other tests are needed to diagnose or rule out hepatitis B?
- Should I be vaccinated against hepatitis B?
Comparing and contrasting laboratory and at-home hepatitis B testing
Laboratory and at-home hepatitis B tests both look for evidence of a hepatitis B infection using a sample of blood. These two testing strategies differ in the specific hepatitis B tests they include and in their ability to definitively diagnose or rule out an infection.
The main difference between these testing strategies is that testing for hepatitis B at home only measures hepatitis B surface antigens. In contrast, laboratory-based testing provides access to a variety of tests used to diagnose and understand a potential HBV infection. Additional hepatitis B tests that are only available when ordered by a doctor include:
- Hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs)
- Total hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc)
- IgM antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (IgM anti-HBc)
- Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)
- Antibody to hepatitis B e antigen (anti-HBe)
Due to the limited nature of at-home hepatitis B tests, they can’t diagnose or rule out hepatitis B. Patients interested in at-home hepatitis B testing should discuss the appropriateness of this approach with their doctor.