What Is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a type of viral hepatitis caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is contagious through exposure to the blood or semen of an infected person.
There are two forms of HBV:
- Acute HBV – This stays in your system for less than six months. A full recovery is likely though some cases can become chronic.
- Chronic HBV – This stays in your system for six months or longer (sometimes for life) because your immune system can't fight it. It's a serious illness that can cause cirrhosis [Link to Cirrhosis webpage] or liver cancer.
It can take several weeks (three months on average) for symptoms to occur after you're exposed to the virus. Not all people experience symptoms, and children younger than 5 usually have no signs or symptoms.
If you do have symptoms of hepatitis B, they might include:
- Fever – An abnormally high body temperature
- Fatigue – Extreme mental and physical tiredness that doesn't improve with rest
- Loss of appetite – Little to no desire to eat
- Nausea – A feeling of sickness in your stomach that may lead to vomiting
- Abdominal pain – Discomfort in the stomach
- Joint pain – Discomfort and inflammation in the joints, often in the hands, knees, ankles and feet
- Dark urine – Urine that is darker than normal, usually dark yellow or brown
- Jaundice – Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
Treatment depends on whether you have acute or chronic HBV.
There is no treatment for acute HBV, but doctors do recommend getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and eating a healthy diet to ease symptoms and prevent complications.
Proper treatment for chronic HBV is important to reduce liver damage. Treatment includes:
- Medicine – Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine to help you fight the virus. Many people with chronic HBV on medication take the medicine for life.
- Lifestyle changes – To prevent further liver damage, don't drink alcohol. Ask your doctor about taking medicines, vitamins and supplements, which may also cause liver damage. Finally, you and your doctor should talk about what you need to do to prevent spreading the virus.
- Regular checkups – Regular appointments allow your doctor to check for complications and treat them promptly.
- Liver transplant – Liver transplant surgery is a possible option if HBV leads to liver failure.
Ready for an Appointment?
If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of Hepatitis B, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.
Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat Hepatitis B.