Chronic Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver. It sometimes causes permanent liver damage.

There are several types of hepatitis. In hepatitis B, the liver is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This causes inflammation. The liver isn’t able to work the way it should.

The liver is a large organ that lies up under the ribs on the right side of your belly (abdomen). It helps filter waste from your body, makes a fluid called bile to help digest food, and stores sugar that your body uses for energy.

In the U.S., hepatitis B is one of the most common diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). It tends to become chronic most often in infants and young children, and less often in people infected as adults.

  • Acute hepatitis B. This is a brief infection (6 months or less) that goes away because the body gets rid of the virus.
  • Chronic hepatitis B. This is a long-lasting infection that happens when your body can’t get rid of the virus. It causes long-term liver damage.

Hepatitis B has a wide range of symptoms. It may be mild, without symptoms, or it may cause chronic hepatitis. In some cases, hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and death.

Each person’s symptoms may vary. The most common symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Fever
  • Muscle soreness
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark urine
  • Clay colored or light colored stools
  • Belly (abdominal) pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Easy bleeding and bruising
  • Confusion
  • Swollen belly from fluid

The symptoms of hepatitis B may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.

A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B. It is given in 3 shots (injections) over 6 months. The vaccine is suggested for everyone age 18 years and younger, as well as for adults over age 18 who are at risk for the infection.

You can protect yourself and others from hepatitis B by:

  • Using condoms during sex
  • Making sure any tattoos or body piercings are done with tools that have been cleaned properly and do not have any germs (sterile)
  • Not sharing needles and other drug supplies
  • Not sharing toothbrushes or razors
  • Not touching another person’s blood or body fluids unless you wear gloves