What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver Most adults who get it
have it for a short time and then get better. This is called acute
Sometimes the virus causes a long-term infection, called chronic
hepatitis B. Over time, it can damage your liver. Babies and young
children infected with the virus are more likely to get chronic
You can have hepatitis B and not know it. You may not have
symptoms. If you do, they can make you feel like you have the flu.
But as long as you have the virus, you can spread it to others.
What causes hepatitis B?
It’s caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread through contact
with the blood and body fluids of an infected person.
You may get hepatitis B if you:
Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized.
Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected
A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during
delivery. Medical experts recommend that all pregnant women get
tested for hepatitis B. If you have the virus, your baby can get
shots to help prevent infection with the virus.
You cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging,
kissing sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.
What are the symptoms?
Many people with hepatitis B don’t know they have it, because they
don’t have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may just feel
like you have the flu symtoms include Feeling very tired.
Not wanting to eat.
Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
Tan-colored bowel movements (stools).
Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually appears only
after other symptoms have started to go away.
Most people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms.
How is hepatitis B diagnosed?
A simple blood test can tell your doctor if you have the hepatitis B
virus now or if you had it in the past. Your doctor also may be able
to tell if you have had the vaccine to prevent the virus.
If your doctor thinks you may have liver damage from hepatitis B,
he or she may use a needle to take a tiny sample of your liver for
testing. This is called a liver biopsy.
How is it treated?
In most cases, hepatitis B goes away on its own. You can relieve
your symptoms at home by resting, eating healthy foods, drinking
plenty of water, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Also, find out
from your doctor what medicines and herbal products to avoid,
because some can make liver damage caused by hepatitis B
Treatment for chronic hepatitis B depends on whether your
infection is getting worse and whether you have liver damage.
Most people with chronic hepatitis B can live active, full lives by
taking good care of themselves and getting regular checkups.
There are medicines for chronic hepatitis B, but they may not be
right for everyone. Work with your doctor to decide if medicine is
right for you. Sometimes, chronic hepatitis B can lead to severe
liver damage. If this happens, you may need a liver transplant.
Can hepatitis B be prevented?
The hepatitis B vaccine is the best way to prevent infection. The
vaccine is a series of 3 or 4 shots. Adults at risk and all babies,
children, and teenagers should be vaccinated. A combination
vaccine (Twinrix) that protects against both hepatitis B and
hepatitis A also is available.
To avoid getting or spreading the virus to others:
Use a condom when you have sex.
Don’t share needles.
Wear latex or plastic gloves if you have to touch blood.
Don’t share toothbrushes or razors.
Don’t get a tattoo, or make sure that the needles used have been
cleaned properly and are sterile.
What is hepatitis B?