What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a
virus that infects the
liver. Most adults who get hepatitis B have it for a
short time and then get better. This is called acute hepatitis B.
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.
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 hepatitis B.
What causes hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is 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
- Have sex with an infected person without
using a condom.
- Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an
- Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that were not
- Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with
an infected person.
A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during
delivery. If you are pregnant and think you may have been exposed to hepatitis
B, get tested. 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 do not know they have it, because they do not have symptoms. If you do have
symptoms, you may just feel like you have the flu. Symptoms include:
Most people with chronic hepatitis B have no
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
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 worse.