Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a high preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV causes the liver to swell and prevents it from working well.

About 95% of adults who are exposed to HBV fully recover within 6 months (acute HBV) without medication. About 5% have HBV all their lives (chronic HBV) unless they are successfully treated with medications. Infants born to mothers infected with HBV are at high risk of developing chronic HBV. Chronic HBV can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, and liver failure.

Facts at-a-Glance

  • Between 850,000 and 2.2 million people in the United States are living with chronic Hepatitis B infection.
  • About 70% of adults with Hepatitis B develop symptoms

Information for the Newly Diagnosed

Who is at risk of having hepatitis B?

  • Anyone who has come in direct contact with hepatitis B virus-infected bodily fluids (blood, semen, and vaginal secretions) is at risk.
  • Were born to an hepatitis B virus-infected mother
  • Work or live in a place where you can be exposed to infected blood, such as a healthcare institution or correctional facility
  • Have ever lived with a person infected with chronic hepatitis B virus
  • Have ever had unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Have ever had multiple sexual partners
  • Have ever had a sexually transmitted disease
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Share needles or syringes to inject drugs, or straws to short them (even once)
  • Have your blood filtered by a machine (hemodialysis) because your kidneys aren’t working
  • Have ever traveled to or are born in countries where hepatitis B virus is common, including places in Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe

What are the symptoms of having hepatitis B?

A majority of adults develop symptoms from acute hepatitis B virus infection; however, young children often do not. Symptoms, when they occur, may include:

  • Fever
  • Dark Urine
  • Joint Pain
  • Weakness and Fatigue
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain near the liver

On average, symptoms appear three months after exposure to the virus, but they can appear anywhere between six weeks and six months. Symptoms usually last for a few weeks, but can last up to six months. Most adults infected with hepatitis B virus recover fully even if their signs and symptoms are severe.

Some of the people who go on to develop chronic hepatitis B virus have ongoing symptoms similar to acute hepatitis B virus, but most people with chronic Hepatitis B remain symptom free for 20 or 30 years.

If you think you have signs of symptoms of Hepatitis B, contact your doctor.

How is hepatitis B diagnosed?

Hepatitis B is diagnosed by blood tests. There are several different blood tests available that can help your doctor determine whether you:

  • Could benefit from getting vaccinated
  • Have an acute or chronic infection
  • Have recovered from an infection
  • Are immune to hepatitis B virus if you think you have signs of symptoms of hepatitis B virus, contact your doctor.

Blood tests are done to check if hepatitis B virus antibodies are in the body. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system in response to viruses.

How is hepatitis B treated?

Doctors often recommend bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol. Medicines are not used to treat acute hepatitis B virus. It is important to see your doctor regularly to make sure your body has fully recovered from the virus.

Chronic Hepatitis B Virus
If you have chronic hepatitis B virus, you should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease and need for possible treatment. Not every person with chronic hepatitis B virus needs medications and the drugs may cause side effects in some people. It is however important to have regular check-ups with your doctor to observe and watch your liver disease.

There are several medications approved to treat chronic hepatitis B virus and many other medications are being developed. You should discuss these options with your doctor to find what is best for you.

hepatitis B virus medications should not be taken by pregnant women unless recommended by their doctors. Some pregnant women with hepatitis B virus should be treated to prevent transmitting hepatitis B virus to their babies. It is important to closely follow up with your doctor during pregnancy to prevent to prevent transmission of Hepatitis B to their babies.

If you have chronic hepatitis B virus, it’s important to talk to your doctor about treatment options and liver cancer screening every 6 months with an imaging test of the liver and cancer biomarkers in the blood. If you develop cirrhosis, you should ask your doctor about the complications of cirrhosis. Also, talk to your doctor about getting the Hepatitis A vaccine and being tested for Hepatitis C and Hepatitis D (Delta).

How can I prevent getting hepatitis B virus?

The best way to prevent infection with hepatitis B virus is by getting the hepatitis B virus vaccine. It stimulate the body’s natural immune system to make antibodies – a substance found in the blood that protects you from disease- against hepatitis B virus. Other ways you can reduce your risk of getting hepatitis B virus include:

  • Using sterile needles and equipment for tattoos or body piercings.
  • Using a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex if you don’t know the health status of your partner
  • Asking your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated if you’re traveling to a region where hepatitis B virus is common
  • Getting help to stop using drugs. If you can’t stop, use sterile needles and don’t share your needles or other drug paraphernalia.
  • Not sharing razors, toothbrushes, or other personal items with someone that has hepatitis B virus.

Who should be vaccinated against hepatitis B?

Those who should be vaccinated against hepatitis B virus include:

  • Newborns
  • Children and adolescents not vaccinated at birth
  • People with chronic liver disease not caused by hepatitis B virus
  • Diabetics younger than 60 years of age
  • People who have had/or are on hemodialysis, those with end-stage renal disease including those on pre-dialysis care, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis
  • Healthcare and emergency workers, military personnel, morticians and others at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contained body fluids on the job
  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled people
  • People working or house in prisons
  • People with a sexually transmitted disease
  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with HIV
  • People who have ever injected or snorted drugs
  • Sexual partners and household members of people with hepatitis B virus
  • Travels or those born in countries where hepatitis B virus is common
  • People seeking protection from hepatitis B virus, particularly members of ethnic or racial groups with high rate of hepatitis B virus infection including Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans,
  • Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives
  • Immigrants from countries where hepatitis B virus is common (Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe)

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What kinds of therapy are possible to reduce my viral load?
  • Are there clinical trials looking at curing Hepatitis B?
  • Do I have liver damage?
  • Will I need a liver transplant?
  • Does my family need a booster vaccination?
  • What are the potential risks at infecting my partner with Hepatitis B?
  • How can I make my friends and family aware of what my condition is?
  • Should I be re-vaccinated for Hepatitis A?

Search for a Clinical Trial

Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Before an experimental treatment can be tested on human subjects in a clinical trial, it must have shown benefit in laboratory testing or animal research studies. The most promising treatments are then moved into clinical trials, with the goal of identifying new ways to safely and effectively prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat a disease.

Speak with your doctor about the ongoing progress and results of these trials to get the most up-to-date information on new treatments. Participating in a clinical trial is a great way to contribute to curing, preventing and treating liver disease and its complications.

Start your search here to find clinical trials that need people like you.

Last updated on August 17th, 2023 at 02:31 pm

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