Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and damage. Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues of the body become injured or infected. Inflammation can damage organs.
Viruses invade normal cells in your body. Many viruses cause infections that can be spread from person to person. The hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with an infected person's blood, semen, or other body fluids.
The hepatitis B virus can cause an acute or chronic infection.
Acute hepatitis B is a short-term infection. If you have symptoms, they may last several weeks. In some cases, symptoms last up to 6 months. Sometimes your body is able to fight off the infection and the virus goes away. Most healthy adults and children older than 5 years old who have hepatitis B get better without treatment.
Your chances of developing chronic hepatitis B are greater if you are infected with the virus as a young child. About 90 percent of infants infected with hepatitis B develop a chronic infection. About 25 to 50 percent of children infected between the ages of 1 and 5 years develop chronic infections. However, among people infected during adulthood, only about 5 percent develop chronic hepatitis B.
People are more likely to get hepatitis B if they are born to a mother who has hepatitis B. The virus can spread from mother to child during birth. For this reason, people are more likely to have hepatitis B if they
People are also more likely to have hepatitis B if they
Your doctor may recommend screening for Hepatitis B if you
Screening is testing for a disease in people who have no symptoms. Doctors use blood tests to screen for hepatitis B. Many people who have hepatitis B don't have symptoms and don't know they have hepatitis B. Screening tests can help doctors diagnose and treat hepatitis B, which can lower your chances of developing serious health problems.
## What are the complications of Hepatitis B?
Chronic hepatitis B may lead to complications, including cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of chronic hepatitis B can lower your chances of developing these complications.
Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and is unable to function normally. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and partially blocks the flow of blood through the liver. In the early stages of cirrhosis, the liver continues to function. As cirrhosis gets worse, the liver begins to fail.
Also called end-stage liver disease, liver failure progresses over months, years, or even decades. With end-stage liver disease, the liver can no longer perform important functions or replace damaged cells.
Having chronic hepatitis B increases your chance of developing liver cancer. Your doctor may suggest an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer. Finding cancer at an early stage improves the chance of curing the cancer.
Infants and children younger than age 5 typically don't have symptoms of acute hepatitis B. Older children and adults are more likely to have symptoms.
If you have chronic hepatitis B, you may not have symptoms until complications develop, which could be decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis B screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
You can't get hepatitis B from
A baby can't get hepatitis B from breast milk.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and about factors that may make you more likely to get hepatitis B. Your doctor may ask whether you have a family history of hepatitis B or liver cancer. Your doctor may also ask about other factors that could damage your liver, such as drinking alcohol.
During a physical exam, your doctor will check for signs of liver damage such as
Doctors use blood tests to diagnose hepatitis B. Your doctor may order additional tests to check for liver damage, find out how much liver damage you have, or rule out other causes of liver disease.
Your doctor may order one or more blood tests to diagnose hepatitis B. A health care professional will take a blood sample from you and send the sample to a lab.
Certain blood tests can show whether you are infected with hepatitis B. If you are infected, your doctor may use other blood tests to find out
If you have chronic hepatitis B, your doctor will recommend testing your blood regularly because chronic hepatitis B can change over time. Even if the infection is not damaging your liver when you are first diagnosed, it may damage your liver in the future. Your doctor will use regular blood tests to check for signs of liver damage, find out if you need treatment, or see how you are responding to treatment.
Blood tests can also show whether you are immune to hepatitis B, meaning you can't get hepatitis B. You may be immune if you got a vaccine or if you had an acute hepatitis B infection in the past and your body fought off the infection.
If you've had chronic hepatitis B a long time, you could have liver damage. Your doctor may recommend additional tests to find out whether you have liver damage, how much liver damage you have, or to rule out other causes of liver disease. These tests may include
Doctors typically use liver biopsy only if other tests don't provide enough information about a person's liver damage or disease. Talk with your doctor about which tests are best for you.
Doctors typically don't treat hepatitis B unless it becomes chronic. Doctors may treat chronic hepatitis B with antiviral medicines that attack the virus. Not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs treatment. If blood tests show that hepatitis B could be damaging your liver, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines to lower your chances of liver damage and complications.
Medicines that you take by mouth include
Medicines that doctors can give as shots include
The length of treatment varies. Hepatitis B medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Tell your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
If chronic hepatitis B leads to cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Doctors can treat the health problems related to cirrhosis with medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased chance of liver cancer. Your doctor may order an ultrasound test to check for liver cancer.
If you are traveling to countries where hepatitis B is common and you haven't received the hepatitis B vaccine, try to get all the shots before you go. If you don't have time to get all the shots before you travel, get as many as you can. Even one shot may give you some protection against the virus.
You can reduce your chance of Hepatitis B infection by
If you think you have been in contact with the hepatitis B virus, see your doctor right away. A dose of the hepatitis B vaccine and, in some cases, a medicine called hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG), may protect you from getting sick. You must get the vaccine dose and HBIG shortly after coming into contact with the virus, preferably within 24 hours.
If you have hepatitis B, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Your sex partners should get a hepatitis B test and, if they aren't infected, get the hepatitis B vaccine. You can protect others from getting infected by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care professionals that you have hepatitis B. Don't donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
If you are pregnant and have hepatitis B, tell the doctor and staff who deliver your baby. A health care professional should give your baby the hepatitis B vaccine and HBIG right after birth. The vaccine and HBIG will greatly reduce the chance of your baby getting the infection.