Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. Anyone can get hepatitis B, but some people are at higher risk, including
- being born to a mother with hepatitis B
- having sex with an infected person
- being tattooed or pierced with unsterilized tools that were used on an infected person
- getting an accidental needle stick with a needle that was used on an infected person
- using an infected person’s razor or toothbrush
- sharing drug needles with an infected person
Hepatitis B usually has no symptoms. Hepatitis B is chronic when the body can’t get rid of the hepatitis B virus. Children, especially infants, are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B, which usually has no symptoms until signs of liver damage appear. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis B can cause scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis; liver cancer; and liver failure.
Hepatitis B is diagnosed through blood tests, which can also show if you have chronic hepatitis B or another type of hepatitis.
Hepatitis B usually is not treated unless it becomes chronic. Chronic hepatitis B is treated with drugs that slow or stop the virus from damaging the liver.