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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.

Causes

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

Exposure may occur:

  • After a needlestick or sharps injury
  • If any blood or other body fluid touches your skin, eyes or mouth, or open sores or cuts 

People who may be at risk of hepatitis B are those who:

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

All blood used for blood transfusions is screened, so the chance of getting the virus in this way is very small.

Symptoms

 

After you first become infected with the HBV:

  • You may have no symptoms.
  • You may feel sick for a period of days or weeks.
  • You may become very ill very quickly (called fulminant hepatitis).

Symptoms of hepatitis B may not appear for up to 6 months after the time of infection. Early symptoms include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Low fever
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellow skin and dark urine

Symptoms will go away in a few weeks to months if your body is able to fight off the infection. Some people never get rid of the HBV. This is called chronic hepatitis B.

People with chronic hepatitis may not have symptoms and not know they are infected. Over time, they may develop symptoms of liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver.

You can spread the HBV to other people even if you have no symptoms.

 

Exams and Tests

 

A series of blood tests called the hepatitis viral panel is done for suspected hepatitis. It can help detect:

  • New infection
  • Older infection that is still active
  • Older infection that is no longer active

The following tests are done to look for liver damage if you have chronic hepatitis B:

  • Albumin level
  • Liver function tests
  • Prothrombin time

You will also have a test to measure the level of HBV in your blood (viral load). This lets your health care provider know how your treatment is working.

People at higher risk for hepatitis should be screened with a blood test. This may be needed even when they have no symptoms. Factors that lead to increased risk include:

  • The risk factors described above in the Causes section.
  • People from countries where a higher number of people have hepatitis B. These countries or areas include Japan, some Mediterranean countries, parts of Asia and the Middle East, West Africa and South Sudan.

 

Treatment

 

Acute hepatitis, unless severe, needs no treatment. Liver and other body functions are watched using blood tests. You should get plenty of bed rest, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy foods.

Some people with chronic hepatitis may be treated with antiviral drugs. These medicines can decrease or remove hepatitis B from the blood. One of the medicines is an injection called interferon. They also help to reduce the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

It is not always clear which people with chronic hepatitis B should receive drug therapy and when it should be started. You are more likely to receive these medicines if:

  • Your liver function is quickly becoming worse.
  • You develop symptoms of long-term liver damage.
  • You have high levels of the HBV in your blood.

For these medicines to work best, you need to take them as instructed by your provider. Ask what side effects you can expect and what to do if you have them. Not everybody who needs to take these medicines responds well.

If you develop liver failure, you may be considered for a liver transplant. A liver transplant is the only cure in some cases of liver failure.

Other steps you can take:

  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Check with your provider before taking any over-the-counter medicines or herbal supplements. This includes medicines such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

Severe liver damage, or cirrhosis, can be caused by hepatitis B.

 

Support Groups

 

Some people benefit from attending a liver disease support group.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

The acute illness most often goes away after 2 to 3 weeks. The liver most often returns to normal within 4 to 6 months in most people.

Almost all newborns and about half of children who get hepatitis B develop the chronic condition. Very few adults who get the virus develop chronic hepatitis B.

About 1 in 100 people who get hepatitis B dies from the condition.

There is a much higher rate of liver cancer in people who have chronic hepatitis B.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your provider if:

  • You develop symptoms of hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis B symptoms do not go away in 2 to 3 weeks, or new symptoms develop.
  • You belong to a high-risk group for hepatitis B and have not had the HBV vaccine.

 

Prevention

 

Children and people at high risk for hepatitis B should get the hepatitis B vaccine.

  • Babies should get a first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth. They should have all 3 shots in the series by age 6 to 18 months.
  • Children younger than age 19 who have not had the vaccine should get "catch-up" doses.
  • Health care workers and those who live with someone who has hepatitis B should get the vaccine.
  • Infants born to mothers who have acute hepatitis B or have had the infection in the past should get a special hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth.

The hepatitis B vaccine or a hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) shot may help prevent infection if you receive it within 24 hours of contact with the virus.

Measures to avoid contact with blood and body fluids can help prevent the spread of hepatitis B from person-to-person.

 

 

References

Kim DK, Bridges CB, Harriman KH; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP); ACIP Adult Immunization Work Group. Advisory committee on immunization practices (ACIP) recommended immunization schedules for adults aged 19 years and older -- United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(4):91-92. PMID: 25654609 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654609.

LeFevre ML; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for hepatitis B virus infection in nonpregnant adolescents and adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(1):58-66. PMID 24863637 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24863637.

Pawlotsky J-M. Chronic viral and autoimmune hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 149.

Sorrell MF, Belongia EA, Costa J, et al. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement: Management of hepatitis B. Ann Intern Med. 2009;150:104-10. PMID: 19124811 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19124811.

Strikas RA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP); ACIP Child/Adolescent Immunization Work Group. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 through 18 years -- United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(4):93-94. PMID: 25654610 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654610.

Wells JT, Perrillo R. Hepatitis B. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 79.

 
  • Hepatitis B

    Animation

  •  

    Hepatitis B - Animation

    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 with 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.

  • Hepatitis B virus

    Hepatitis B virus - illustration

    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.)

    Hepatitis B virus

    illustration

  • Digestive system

    Digestive system - illustration

    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.

    Digestive system

    illustration

  • Aggressive hepatitis

    Aggressive hepatitis - illustration

    Chronic active hepatitis is a liver disease caused by infection, drug ingestion, metabolic or autoimmune disorders. Necrosis (death) of liver cells, inflammation and fibrosis may lead to liver failure. Death within 5 years of onset occurs in 40% to 50% of patients.

    Aggressive hepatitis

    illustration

  • Gianotti-Crosti syndrome on the leg

    Gianotti-Crosti syndrome on the leg - illustration

    Gianotti-Crosti disease is also called acrodermatitis of childhood. These red, elevated lesions do not contain pus and can occur on the limbs, buttocks, face, and neck.

    Gianotti-Crosti syndrome on the leg

    illustration

  • Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B - illustration

    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.

    Hepatitis B

    illustration

  • Hepatitis B

    Animation

  •  

    Hepatitis B - Animation

    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 with 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.

  • Hepatitis B virus

    Hepatitis B virus - illustration

    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.)

    Hepatitis B virus

    illustration

  • Digestive system

    Digestive system - illustration

    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.

    Digestive system

    illustration

  • Aggressive hepatitis

    Aggressive hepatitis - illustration

    Chronic active hepatitis is a liver disease caused by infection, drug ingestion, metabolic or autoimmune disorders. Necrosis (death) of liver cells, inflammation and fibrosis may lead to liver failure. Death within 5 years of onset occurs in 40% to 50% of patients.

    Aggressive hepatitis

    illustration

  • Gianotti-Crosti syndrome on the leg

    Gianotti-Crosti syndrome on the leg - illustration

    Gianotti-Crosti disease is also called acrodermatitis of childhood. These red, elevated lesions do not contain pus and can occur on the limbs, buttocks, face, and neck.

    Gianotti-Crosti syndrome on the leg

    illustration

  • Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B - illustration

    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.

    Hepatitis B

    illustration

A Closer Look

 

    Talking to your MD

     

      Self Care

       

      Tests for Hepatitis B

       

       

      Review Date: 8/20/2015

      Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Internal review and update on 09/01/2016 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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