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Hepatitis B




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The Basics

Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate  
What is hepatitis B? — Hepatitis B is a serious disease that harms the liver. The liver is a big organ in the upper right side of the belly (figure 1). A virus causes this disease. The virus spreads from person to person when their bodily fluids touch. This can happen in a few ways, like having sex or sharing needles. 
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B? — When people first get hepatitis B, they can feel like they have the flu. Some people's eyes or skin turn yellow (called jaundice). These symptoms usually get better, but it can take weeks to months. 
About 1 out of every 20 adults who gets hepatitis B ends up having the disease for a long time. This is called "chronic" hepatitis B. Most people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms. But, over time, the infection can lead to a liver condition called cirrhosis. Symptoms of cirrhosis include: 
●Swelling in the belly and legs, and fluid build-up in the lungs 
●Bruising or bleeding easily 
●Trouble breathing 
●Feeling full 
●Confusion that can come on suddenly 
Chronic hepatitis B also increases the risk of getting liver cancer. 
How did I get the disease? — There are a few ways to catch the hepatitis B virus. All of them involve mixing bodily fluids with other people. You might have caught the disease by: 
●Having sex with someone who was infected 
●Sharing drug needles with someone who was infected 
●Using infected needles for tattooing, acupuncture, or piercings 
●Sharing toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items with someone who was infected 
If your mother had hepatitis when she was pregnant with you, it's also possible you got the infection from her. This is especially likely if she is from a country where hepatitis B is common. In the same way, if you have hepatitis B and are pregnant, you can pass the infection on to your baby. 
Is there a test for hepatitis B? — Yes. If your doctor or nurse suspects you have hepatitis B, he or she will do a routine exam to check for other problems. But he or she will probably also order a blood test to check for the virus. 
Your doctor might also want to remove a small sample of your liver to see if it is damaged. This is called a "biopsy." 
How is hepatitis B treated? — For people who have chronic hepatitis B, treatments include: 
●Medicines that fight the virus. There are several types. Your doctor will choose the right one for you, based on your symptoms. 
●A liver transplant. In severe cases, people with hepatitis B need a new liver. 
●Having an ultrasound test every 6 months to make sure they are not developing liver cancer. An ultrasound creates pictures of the inside of the body. 
Is there anything I can do to protect my liver? — Yes. You can: 
●Avoid alcohol 
●Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and other diseases, including the flu and pneumonia 
●Ask your doctor or nurse before taking any over-the-counter pain medicines. (These medicines can sometimes damage the liver.) 
How can I avoid giving the disease to other people? — You can reduce your chances of spreading hepatitis B by: 
●Using a latex condom during sex 
●Telling sex partners that you have the disease 
●Not sharing razors, toothbrushes, or anything that might have blood on it 
●Not sharing needles or syringes 
●Using bandages to cover cuts and open sores 
●Making sure your family and close friends get tested and get the vaccine for hepatitis B 
●Cleaning drops of your blood off of things with a mixture of bleach and water. For the mixture, use 9 times more water than bleach. 
What if I want to get pregnant? — If you want to get pregnant, talk to your doctor or nurse first. If you are infected when you give birth, your baby should get a special shot right away. This shot helps protect your baby from infection. You might also need treatment with a medicine for several weeks before giving birth. Plus, your baby will get a vaccine shot at 1 or 2 months old, and another one at 6 months. A test between 9 and 12 months will show if the baby has the disease. Your doctor will decide if he or she needs more vaccine shots at that time. 
What will my life be like? — Many people with hepatitis B are able to live normal lives. It is still safe to: 
●Hug and kiss 
●Share forks, spoons, and cups 
●Sneeze and cough around other people 
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete. 
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 25, 2016. 
Topic 15382 Version 8.0 
Release: 23.7 - C24.18 
© 2016 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved. 
figure 1:

Organs inside the abdomen (belly)

figure 1:

Organs inside the abdomen (belly)

Graphic 64960 Version 6.0

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This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or life-style choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider's advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.The use of UpToDate content is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use. ©2016 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved. 


© 2016 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved.