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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.

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Hepatitis B

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Causes

Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (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:

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

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:

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

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. It can help detect:

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

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.

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:

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:

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:

Prevention

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

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.

Related Information

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis C
Delta agent (Hepatitis D)
Cirrhosis
Liver cancer - hepatocellular carcinoma

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; U.S. 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 & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 79.

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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. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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