Viral hepatitis B
What is it?
Viral hepatitis (hep-uh-TI-tus) B is an infection (in-FEK-shun) of the liver. It is called hepatitis B because that is the name of the virus (germ) that causes the disease. There is a vaccine (medicine) that can keep you from getting hepatitis B. If you already have hepatitis B, it is too late to get the vaccine. There are medicines that are used to treat people with hepatitis B. It usually takes about 6 months for hepatitis B to go away. There are no quick cures. Your caregiver can tell by blood tests if the disease is gone. For some people, hepatitis B becomes a long-lasting disease. A few people become carriers of the germ. A carrier may not feel sick, but will infect other people with hepatitis B.
What causes hepatitis B? You may get hepatitis B from being in contact with blood or body fluids from people who have the disease. The body fluids of an infected person contain the hepatitis germ. Hepatitis B can be spread from person to person through the mucus (MEW-cus) membranes. Mucus membranes are the soft moist areas of your body like the lining of your mouth, nose, and eyes. This also includes the inside of the vagina (va-JINE-uh), the inside of the penis, and the rectum (where you have a BM). An infected person's blood, saliva (mouth juice), semen (sperm), or vaginal fluids may come into contact with the mucus membranes of someone who does not have the disease. In this way, the person who does not have the disease may get it. This may happen in the following ways:
- Health care workers like doctors, nurses, and janitors may get hepatitis B from a needlestick injury. This is when you are stuck with a needle used on someone who already has the disease.
- Users of street drugs may get hepatitis B from sharing needles or from other drug items.
- Infected mothers may give hepatitis B to their babies at the time the baby is born.
- Having sex with people who have hepatitis B may spread the disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B? Symptoms may begin as soon as 6 weeks or as late as 6 months after you were exposed to the hepatitis B germ. Many people who have hepatitis B do not have any signs or symptoms. Children and young people are the least likely to have symptoms. Younger people are more likely to have long-lasting hepatitis B and to become carriers of the germ. Older people are more likely to show signs and symptoms of the disease. Following are signs and symptoms of hepatitis B:
- Skin rash and joint pain.
- Loss of appetite, nausea (upset stomach), or vomiting (throwing up).
- Body aches, weakness, or tiredness.
- Jaundice (JON-diss), a condition where your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, may or may not happen. If jaundice does happen, your urine will be dark-colored and your BMs will be light in color.
- Your liver grows large and is tender to touch.
Resting and eating healthy food will help you get better. Drink eight (soda pop can size) glasses of water each day.
There is no cure for hepatitis B. You will usually be treated at home but may need to be put in the hospital for tests and treatment. Blood tests will be done to learn about your liver infection. You may have a liver biopsy. There are medicines that can be used to treat long lasting hepatitis. If the liver infection does not improve, a liver transplant may be needed.
- Do not drink alcohol (beer, wine, and hard alcohol) as these can cause liver problems.
Herbs and Supplements:
Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.
- Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been used for a long time to treat chronic viral hepatitis.
Do's and Don'ts:
- There is a vaccine that can keep you from getting hepatitis B. Your sex partner, the people you live with, and people who share drug items with you, should be vaccinated (given a shot) for hepatitis B. This should be done as soon as possible. If you are pregnant and have hepatitis B, make sure your baby is vaccinated within 12 hours after birth. After they are vaccinated, the people around you should be tested to make sure they are protected against hepatitis B.
- Do not share food or food utensils, drug items, toothbrushes, or razors with anyone else until your caregiver tells you it is safe.
- Wash clothing and bedding in the hottest water setting.
- Your dishes and utensils should be washed in boiling water or in an automatic dishwasher. It may be easier to use disposable (throw away) dishes and utensils.
- Do not come in close contact with other people. Do not kiss. Do not have sex, including oral and anal sex, until your caregiver tells you it is okay. If you are determined to have sex, make sure the male partner is wearing a latex condom.
- Do not donate blood, body organs, semen, or other tissue.
Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.
Talk to your caregiver if:
- You would like medicine to treat hepatitis B.
- Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
- You are bruising easily.
- You are very sleepy or feel confused.
- You have questions about what you have read in this document.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You have bad abdominal (belly) pain.
- You have BMs that are red or black and sticky.
- Your vomit (throw up) is red or looks like coffee grounds.
- You are too dizzy to stand up.
You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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Last Updated: 1/4/2011