Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).You can catch hepatitis B through contact with the blood or body fluids (such as semen, vaginal fluids, and saliva) of a person who has the virus.
Exposure may occur:

  • After a needle stick or sharp injury
  • If any blood or other body fluid touches your skin, eyes or mouth
  • During childbirth, whether the delivery is vaginal or via cesarean section

Symptoms

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Swelling of arms or legs

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing hepatitis B include:

  • Having unprotected sex with an infected partner
  • Receiving blood transfusions (not common in the United States)
  • Having contact with blood at work (such as health care workers)
  • Having been on long-term kidney dialysis
  • Getting a tattoo or acupuncture with unclean needles
  • Sharing needles during drug use
  • Sharing personal items (such as toothbrush, razor, and nail clippers) with a person who has the virus
  • Having been born to a hepatitis-B infected mother

When to See a Doctor

If you have symptoms that concern you and/or are consistent with hepatitis B, see a doctor for a thorough exam and consultation. Simple diagnostic tests can confirm if you have been infected with Hepatitis B. Although treatment is not necessary in all cases, patients should be carefully monitored. If required, early intervention can reduce your risk of liver damage and liver cancer.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for individuals with hepatitis B vary and may include the following:

  • Drug therapy
  • Hepatitis B may resolve on its own in some cases
  • Liver transplantation

Diagnostic Testing

The foremost diagnostic “test” for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:

  • Imaging tests (which may include one or more of the following: ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan, MRI scan)
  • Liver Biopsy

Prevention

The hepatitis B vaccine offers the best protection. All infants and unvaccinated children, adolescents, and at-risk adults should be vaccinated. For people who have not been vaccinated, reducing exposure to the virus can help prevent hepatitis B. Reducing exposure means using condoms, which may lower the risk of transmission; not sharing drug needles; and not sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers with an infected person.

Learn More

Learn more about hepatitis B with resources from the National Institutes of Health

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