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Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver. It sometimes causes permanent liver damage.
There are several types of hepatitis. In hepatitis B, the liver is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This causes inflammation. The liver isn’t able to work the way it should.
The liver is a large organ that lies up under the ribs on the right side of your belly (abdomen). It helps filter waste from your body, makes a fluid called bile to help digest food, and stores sugar that your body uses for energy.
In the U.S., hepatitis B is one of the most common diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine.
Hepatitis B can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). It tends to become chronic most often in infants and young children, and less often in people infected as adults.
Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus. People pass the hepatitis B virus to each other. This happens when you come into contact with another person’s infected:
Common ways this virus is spread are through:
Babies may also get the disease if their mother has the virus. Infected children can spread the virus to other children if they play together often or if a child has many scrapes or cuts. But body fluids need to come in contact to spread the virus. So just playing next to a friend will not give someone hepatitis B.
Anyone can get hepatitis B by coming into contact with the blood or body fluids of someone who is infected with hepatitis B.
Some people are at higher risk for getting hepatitis B. They include:
Hepatitis B has a wide range of symptoms. It may be mild, without symptoms, or it may cause chronic hepatitis. In some cases, hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and death.
Each person’s symptoms may vary. The most common symptoms of hepatitis B include:
The symptoms of hepatitis B may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
To see if you have hepatitis B, your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and do a blood test.
If your healthcare provider suspects chronic hepatitis B, he or she may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver with a needle. These samples are checked under a microscope to find out the type of liver disease and how severe it is.An ultrasound test is usually done as well to see if the liver looks very diseased.
Hepatitis B is not treated unless it becomes a long-term (chronic) infection. Then medicines are used to try to slow down or stop the virus from damaging the liver. Most people get medicines they can take by mouth (orally). But some people get an injection. The decision to treat is complicated and based on many things. These include test results and how advanced your disease is.
Your symptoms will be closely watched and managed as needed. If severe liver damage occurs, you may need a liver transplant.
There is no cure for hepatitis B. Treatment is helpful to decrease the amount of virus in your blood and decrease risk of complications.
Long-term or chronic hepatitis B can cause severe liver damage. The most severe liver damage is called cirrhosis. The liver stops working properly. This could lead to the need for a liver transplant.
Liver failure can lead to death.
The risk of liver cancer is higher in people with hepatitis B.
A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B. It is given in 3 shots (injections) over 6 months. The vaccine is suggested for everyone age 18 years and younger, as well as for adults over age 18 who are at risk for the infection.
You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis B by:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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