Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). For some people, hepatitis B infection becomes chronic, leading to liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis — a condition that causes permanent scarring of the liver.
Most people infected with hepatitis B as adults recover fully, even if their signs and symptoms are severe. Infants and children are much more likely to develop a chronic hepatitis B infection. Although no cure exists for hepatitis B, a vaccine can prevent the disease. If you're already infected, taking certain precautions can help prevent spreading HBV to others.
The liver is your largest internal organ. About the size of a football, it's located mainly in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above your stomach. ...
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B usually appear about three months after you've been infected and can range from mild to severe. Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B may include:
Most infants and children with hepatitis B never develop signs and symptoms. The same is true for some adults.
When to see a doctor
If you know you've been exposed to hepatitis B, contact your doctor immediately. A preventive treatment may reduce the risk that the virus will infect your body. But the treatment must be given within 24 hours of exposure to the hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is passed from person to person through blood, semen or other body fluids. When HBV enters your liver, it invades the liver cells and begins to multiply. This causes inflammation in the liver and leads to the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B infection.
Common ways HBV is transmitted include:
Acute vs. chronic hepatitis B
Your risk of hepatitis B infection is increased if you:
Having a chronic HBV infection can lead to serious complications, such as:
Normal liver vs. liver cirrhosis
A normal liver (left) shows no signs of scarring. In cirrhosis (right), scar tissue replaces normal liver tissue. ...
Liver cancer begins in the cells of the liver. The most common form of liver cancer begins in cells called hepatocytes and is called hepatocellular carcinoma. ...
Preparing for your appointment
Whom to see
How to prepare
Questions to ask
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Screening healthy people for hepatitis B
People who may want to talk to their doctors about screening for hepatitis B infection include:
Blood tests to detect hepatitis B infection
Additional tests to gauge liver health and infection severity
Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing
A liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing. A liver biopsy is commonly performed by inserting a thin needle through your skin and into your liver....
Treatments and drugs
Treatment to prevent hepatitis B infection after exposure
Treatment for acute hepatitis B infection
Treatment for chronic hepatitis B infection
Living liver transplant
A small percentage of liver donations come from a living donor, such as a friend or family member. During a living-donor liver transplant, one portion of the donor's liver is removed and transplanted ...
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you've been infected with hepatitis B, take steps to protect others from the virus. For instance:
No complementary or alternative medicine treatments have proved helpful in preventing or treating hepatitis B infection.
One herb that continues to attract attention for its touted liver-health properties is milk thistle. Proponents of milk thistle recommend the herb to treat jaundice and other liver disorders. People take milk thistle as a capsule, extract or infusion.
Small studies of milk thistle treatment for liver disease have had mixed results. Many of the studies have been poorly designed, making it difficult for researchers to draw conclusions about the usefulness of milk thistle.
If you're interested in trying milk thistle, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
Coping and support
If you've been diagnosed with hepatitis B infection, you may worry about what it means for your health. You may also worry about spreading hepatitis B to those close to you. To help you cope with your feelings, consider trying to:
Consider the hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for:
Take precautions to avoid HBV
Last Updated: 2011-09-01
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