Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the liver due to infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Other types of viral hepatitis include hepatitis A, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D.

Hepatitis B virus

Hepatitis B is also known as serum hepatitis and is spread through blood and sexual contact. It is seen with increased frequency among intravenous drug users who share needles and among the homosexual population. This photograph is an electronmicroscopic image of hepatitis B virus particles. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Chronic hepatitis

Chronic hepatitis is a liver disease caused by infection, drug ingestion, metabolic or autoimmune disorders. Necrosis (death) of liver cells, inflammation, and fibrosis that occur in chronic hepatitis may lead over time to liver failure.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers, people who live with someone with hepatitis B, and others at higher risk. The hepatitis B virus can damage liver cells. Immunization is also recommended for all infants and unvaccinated adolescents.

If you've been diagnosed with hepatitis B, you may worry about your health and about spreading the disease to others. Let's talk about hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is irritation and swelling of the liver from infection with the hepatitis B virus. Infection can spread through contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and other body fluids of someone who already has the disease. Hepatitis B can also be passed to an infant during childbirth if the mother is infected. Most of the damage from the virus happens because of how the body responds to the infection. When the body's immune system detects the infection, it sends out special cells to fight it off. These disease-fighting cells, in turn, can cause liver inflammation. After you first become infected with the hepatitis B virus, you may have no symptoms at all. Or you may feel sick for a period of days or weeks, with some people becoming very ill. If you're body is able to fight off the infection, symptoms should go away within a few weeks to months. Early symptoms may include loss of appetite, weakness, a low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea, vomiting, or maybe yellow skin. Sometimes, your body can't get rid of the infection. If so, you have chronic (or long-term) hepatitis B. You may have few - or even no - symptoms at all. You may not even look sick. This is a problem, because people with chronic hepatitis B often do not know they're sick, and they can spread the virus to other people. If your doctor thinks you have hepatitis B, you will need blood tests to confirm diagnosis. If your disease is acute (or short-term), you may not need treatment, other than occasional blood tests to check the health of your liver and other body functions. Your doctor will tell you to get plenty of bed rest, to drink plenty of fluids, and to eat healthy foods. Some people may have chronic hepatitis and need antiviral medications or another medicine, called peginterferon. These medicines can remove hepatitis B from your blood and reduce your risk of cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and reduce your risk of liver cancer. If you have severe chronic hepatitis B, you may eventually need a liver transplant. If you have acute hepatitis B, you will probably get better. If your infection is chronic, however, you should avoid alcohol and check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicines or herbal supplements. And you will need ongoing blood tests to monitor the health of your liver.



Exams and Tests


Support Groups

Outlook (Prognosis)

When to Contact a Medical Professional