Karen Schroeder Kassel, MS, RD, MEd
Hepatitis B is a liver disease. It can be acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis B usually goes away on its own and may not need treatment.
Chronic hepatitis B is an infection that lasts more than six months. Chronic infection can lead to other health problems. Hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications.
Hepatitis B is caused a virus. The virus causes swelling and irritation in the liver and makes it difficult for the liver to function normally.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is spread by semen, vaginal secretions, saliva, blood, or body fluids from an infected person. The virus can pass from these fluids to your body through an open cut in your skin.
A woman with hepatitis can also pass HBV to her baby during childbirth.
Factors that may increase your chance of hepatitis B include:
It is possible that someone infected with HBV may never have symptoms of hepatitis B.
If symptoms do develop, they appear around 60-150 days after exposure. Symptoms may include:
Chronic hepatitis can lead to serious health problems including:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Hepatitis B is diagnosed with blood tests. Blood tests are also used to monitor changes in the liver.
For chronic cases, a liver
may be needed.
Acute infection may not need any treatment since it usually goes away on its own.
Chronic hepatitis B may be treated with a combination of different antiviral medications. All medications do not work the same in all people. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Your doctor may also ask that you:
To reduce your chance of getting hepatitis B, take these steps:
There is a
to prevent hepatitis B. This vaccine, a series of three injections, is routinely given to newborns. Children and teens who were not vaccinated as babies can still receive the shots.
Other prevention strategies include:
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis B Foundation
Canadian Liver Foundation
Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, Chilton L, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011.
Ann Intern Med. 2011;154(3):168-173.
Hepatitis B. American Liver Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/hepatitisb. Updated February 17, 2012. Accessed May 1, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HBV. Updated May 16, 2012. Accessed May 1, 2013.
Hepatitis B. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated April 23, 2013. Accessed May 1, 2013.
Vaccine information statement: hepatitis B vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hep-b.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2013.
Vaccine-preventable STDs. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/vaccine.htm. Updated January 28, 2013. Accessed May 1, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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