Hepatitis Type B

You have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, also called HBV. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In your case, it's from an infection with the hepatitis B virus.

Causes

The most common causes of hepatitis are viruses. Alcohol and drug abuse, chemical toxins, and autoimmune disorders can also cause hepatitis. So can diabetes, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome.

When a virus causes hepatitis, it's called viral hepatitis. The hepatitis viruses A, B, and C commonly cause viral hepatitis. Other viral infections can also cause hepatitis, such as the viruses that cause mononucleosis and chicken pox.

What all the liver (hepatic) viruses have in common is that once they are spread to you, they infect the liver and then cause inflammation (hepatitis). The different viruses are spread in different ways, but all of them can affect your health over a long time. Possible complications include cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.

HBV is the most common cause of acute (short-term) viral hepatitis. HBV is commonly spread through contact with the body fluids of an infected person, exposure to contaminated blood or needles, unprotected sex with an infected person, or from an infected mother to baby.

Staying away these common routes of infection is the best way to prevent the spread of HBV.

Symptoms

Many people with HBV have either mild symptoms or no symptoms when they are first infected. Often this is also the case for many years later. But hepatitis can damage your liver. It can become long-term (chronic) in some people. Symptoms usually last 1 to 3 months in the early stages. Symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness, fatigue, or weakness

  • Low-grade fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting

  • Belly (abdominal) pain

  • Dark-yellow colored urine

  • Light-colored (gray or clay) or pale stool

  • Yellow color of the skin or eyes (jaundice)

    Rarely, the initial (acute) infection with HBV can cause acute liver failure. This is a serious condition that may require a liver transplant.

Home care

  • A diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables is best for you and your liver. Have small, frequent meals if you have nausea.

  • If you are having symptoms of hepatitis, you may get tired easily. Get plenty of rest. Don't exert yourself too much.

  • Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be toxic to the liver in high doses, with prolonged use, or if there is existing liver damage.

    • If you have hepatitis, don't take these medicines until you talk about them with your healthcare provider.

    • If you have only mild or no liver damage from chronic hepatitis, you may take acetaminophen in low doses (2 grams per 24 hours). Don't take anti-inflammatory medicines. Never take acetaminophen with alcohol, since this increases the risk of liver damage.

  • Alcohol stresses the liver. Don't drink alcohol if you have hepatitis.

Preventing the spread of hepatitis

  • This virus is present in the blood and body fluids. It can be spread through sexual contact. Inform your partner and use condoms when you have sex until the virus has been eliminated from your system. Condoms may lower the risk of spreading the virus, but they are not a guarantee

  • Never share needles, syringes, tattoo equipment, snorting straws, razors, or toothbrushes.

  • Don't try to donate blood.

  • If you need medical or dental care, tell the staff that you have hepatitis. Then they can take extra care to avoid spreading the infection.

  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your healthcare provider. Hepatitis can be transmitted to the unborn baby. Woman are often checked for hepatitis B when pregnant. In some cases medicine is needed to decrease the transmission to the baby.

  • People who are exposed to you in any of the ways described above should contact their healthcare provider or the local public health department as soon as possible. This is so they can be tested and vaccinated as needed.

  • The hepatitis B vaccine will prevent the disease and should be given to all infants and people at risk. The hepatitis A vaccine is often offered, too. Talk with your healthcare provider.

  • There is treatment for hepatitis B, but rarely a cure. Treatments include oral medicine and an injectable medicine. Your provider can help figure out if these are right for you.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised, to be sure that you are doing well and don't have any complications. It's possible to become a chronic carrier of HBV. If this happens, you could infect others even though you no longer feel ill. Only a blood test can identify this condition. This makes it important to have a follow-up exam.

If X-rays, a CT scan, MRI, or an ultrasound was done, they will be reviewed by a specialist. You will be told the results, especially if they affect treatment.

You will have labs and imaging tests from time to time. This is to look for any signs of liver cancer developing.

You may start taking medicines to suppress your immune system, such as chemotherapy. Then you may need to take medicine to keep the hepatitis B from getting worse.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing, wheezing

  • Confusion

  • Extreme drowsiness or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast heart rate

  • Vomiting blood or significant rectal bleeding (red blood or black, tarry stool)

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Frequent vomiting

  • Weight loss from poor appetite

  • Increase in belly pain or swelling

  • Increasing drowsiness or confusion

  • Weakness or dizziness

  • New or increasing yellow color of skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • Bleeding from the gums or nose, or easy bruising

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