Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus (abbreviated to HBV) that are spread through blood and body fluids. It often doesn't cause any obvious symptoms in adults and typically passes in a few months without treatment. But in children, it often persists for years and may eventually cause serious liver damage. Hepatitis B is less common in the UK than other parts of the world, but certain groups are at an increased risk. This includes people originally from high-risk countries, people who inject drugs and people who have unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners. A hepatitis B vaccine is available for people at high risk of the condition.
Many people with hepatitis B won't experience any symptoms and may fight off the virus without realising they had it.
If symptoms do develop, they tend to occur two or three months after exposure to the hepatitis B virus.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include:
- flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, a fever, and general aches and pains
- loss of appetite
- nausea and being sick
- abdominal pain
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
These symptoms will usually pass within one to three months (acute hepatitis B), although occasionally the infection can last for six months or more (chronic hepatitis B).
Treatments for hepatitis B
Treatment for hepatitis B depends on how long you've been infected for:•If you've been exposed to the virus in the past few days, emergency treatment can help stop you becoming infected.
- If you've only had the infection for a few weeks or months (acute hepatitis B), you may only need treatment to relieve your symptoms while your body fights off the infection.
- If you've had the infection for more than six months (chronic hepatitis B), you may be offered treatment with medicines that can keep the virus under control and reduce the risk of liver damage.
Chronic hepatitis B often requires long-term or lifelong treatment and regular monitoring to check for any further liver problems.
- ↑ nhs.uk. (2017). Hepatitis B. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-b/ [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].