What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a disease that damages the liver. Viruses cause most cases of hepatitis, but alcohol, drugs, and other factors can also cause the disease.

Hepatitis B can be spread from another person who has the virus. In the United States, it is most commonly spread by having sex with an infected person or by sharing a needle. A blood test can tell you if you have hepatitis.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious form of hepatitis caused by a virus. It affects people of all ages around the world. The hepatitis B virus attacks the liver. The virus can lead to serious illness, liver damage and, in some cases, death.

How is hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread through the blood and body fluids (semen and fluids from the vagina) of an infected person. The virus can be spread by:

  • Sharing needles with a person(s) infected with hepatitis B.
  • Having sex with an infected person.
  • Using an infected person's personal items (such as razors, toothbrushes, scissors or nail files).
  • Being stuck with a needle used by a person infected with hepatitis B.

It also can be passed on from an infected mother to her child at birth.

The chance of being infected with hepatitis B from receiving blood transfusions is unlikely because donated blood is tested for the virus.

Can a person get more than one form of hepatitis?

Yes. You can get different forms of hepatitis at different times. For example, if you have had hepatitis A, you can still get hepatitis B.

Who are hepatitis B carriers?

Hepatitis B carriers are people who have the hepatitis B virus in their blood, even though they do not feel sick. They can infect others without knowing it. A blood test can tell you if you are a hepatitis B carrier.

What is the difference between acute and chronic hepatitis?

When a person is first infected with hepatitis, they are said to have "acute" hepatitis. Acute hepatitis can be mild or severe. Luckily, more than 80% of the people infected with hepatitis recover within 6 months and no longer have the virus.

Some people do not recover and develop "chronic" hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis is an ongoing infection of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis, or hardening of the liver, causes liver tissue to scar and stop working.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

Some people who are infected never feel sick. Others who are newly infected have symptoms that last for several weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Achy muscles or joints
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Loose stool (diarrhea)
  • Lack of energy
  • Constipation
  • Yellowing of skin or whites of the eyes
  • Being sick to your stomach
  • Brown urine