Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. Most adults who get hepatitis B have it for a short time and then get better. This is called acute hepatitis B.You can have hepatitis B and not know it. You may not have symptoms. If you do, they can make you feel like you have the flu. But as long as you have the virus, you can spread it to others.
Sometimes the virus causes a long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis B. Over time, it can damage your liver. Babies and young children infected with the virus are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B.
What causes hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person.You may get hepatitis B if you:
- Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
- Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
- Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that were not cleaned well.
- Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.
A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during delivery. If you are pregnant and think you may have been exposed to hepatitis B, get tested. If you have the virus, your baby can get shots to help prevent infection with the virus.You cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.
What are the symptoms?
Many people with hepatitis B do not know they have it, because they do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may just feel like you have the flu. Symptoms include:
- Feeling very tired.
- Mild fever.
- Not wanting to eat.
- Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
- Belly pain.
- Diarrhea or constipation.
- Muscle aches and joint pain.
- Skin rash.
- Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
Most people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms.
How is hepatitis B diagnosed?