What I Need To Know About Hepatitis B

hepatitus virus- 3d pictureHepatitis (HEP-ah-TY-tis) makes your liver swell and stops it from working right. You need a healthy liver. The liver does many things to keep you alive. The liver fights infections and stops bleeding. It removes drugs and other poisons from your blood. The liver also stores energy for when you need it.

What causes hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus.

A virus is a germ that causes sickness. (For example, the flu is caused by a
virus.) People can pass viruses to each other. The virus that causes hepatitis B
is called the hepatitis B virus.

How could I get hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B spreads by contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, or
other body fluid.

You could get hepatitis B by Illustration of a man and woman in bed.

  • having sex with an infected person without using a condom
  • sharing drug needles
  • having a tattoo or body piercing done with dirty tools that were used on
    someone else
  • getting pricked with a needle that has infected blood on it (health care
    workers can get hepatitis B this way)
  • living with someone who has hepatitis B
  • sharing a toothbrush or razor with an infected person
  • traveling to countries where hepatitis B is common

An infected woman can give hepatitis B to her baby at birth or through her
breast milk.

You can NOT get hepatitis B by

  • shaking hands with an infected person
  • hugging an infected person
  • sitting next to an infected person

What are the symptoms?

Hepatitis B can make you feel like you have the flu.

Illustration of a man in bed.

You might

  • feel tired
  • feel sick to your stomach
  • have a fever
  • not want to eat
  • have stomach pain
  • have diarrhea

Some people have

  • dark yellow urine
  • light-colored stools
  • yellowish eyes and skin

Some people don’t have any
symptoms.

If you have symptoms or think you might have hepatitis B, go to a
doctor.

Doctor taking a blood sample from a woman's arm.
The doctor will take some blood to check
for hepatitis B.

What are the tests for hepatitis B?

To check for hepatitis B, the doctor will test your blood.

These tests show if you have hepatitis B and how serious it is.

The doctor may also do a liver biopsy.

A biopsy (BYE-op-see) is a simple test. The doctor removes a tiny piece of
your liver through a needle. The doctor checks the piece of liver for signs of
hepatitis B and liver damage.

How is hepatitis B treated?

Treatment for hepatitis B may involve

Health care provider wearing gloves, drawing medicine into a syringe.

Hepatitis B is treated through shots of medicine.

  • A drug called interferon (in-ter-FEAR-on). It is given through shots.
    Most people are treated for 4 months.
  • A drug called lamivudine (la-MIV-you-deen). You take it by mouth once
    a day. Treatment is usually for one year.
  • A drug called adefovir dipivoxil (uh-DEH-foh-veer dih-pih-VOX-ill).
    You take it by mouth once a day. Treatment is usually for one year.
  • Surgery. Over time, hepatitis B may cause your liver to stop working.
    If that happens, you will need a new liver. The surgery is called a liver
    transplant. It involves taking out the old, damaged liver and putting in a new,
    healthy one from a donor.

How can I protect myself?

You can get the hepatitis B vaccine.

Illustration of a Doctor giving a woman a shot.
Vaccines protect you from getting hepatitis
B.

A vaccine is a drug that you take when you are healthy that keeps you from
getting sick. Vaccines teach your body to attack certain viruses, like the
hepatitis B virus.

The hepatitis B vaccine is given through three shots. All babies should get
the vaccine. Infants get the first shot within 12 hours after birth. They get
the second shot at age 1 to 2 months and the third shot between ages 6 and 18
months.

Older children and adults can get the vaccine, too. They get three shots over
6 months. Children who have not had the vaccine should get it.

You need all of the shots to be protected. If you are traveling to
other countries, make sure you get all the shots before you go. If you miss a
shot, call your doctor or clinic right away to set up a new appointment.

You can also protect yourself and others from hepatitis B if you

Health care provider putting on gloves.
People who touch blood at work should wear gloves to
protect themselves from hepatitis B.
  • use a condom when you have sex
  • don’t share drug needles with anyone
  • wear gloves if you have to touch anyone’s blood
  • don’t use an infected person’s toothbrush, razor, or anything else that
    could have blood on it
  • make sure any tattooing or body piercing is done with clean tools

For More Information

You can also get information about hepatitis B from these groups:

American Liver Foundation (ALF)
75 Maiden Lane, Suite
603
New York, NY 10038–4810
Phone: 1–800–GO–LIVER
(465–4837),
1–888–4HEP–USA (443–7872),
or 212–668–1000
Fax:
212–483–8179
Email: [email protected]
Internet:
www.liverfoundation.org

Hepatitis
B Foundatio

SHARE YOUR OPINION

Would you take a home HIV test?