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Your Liver, Your Life: Protecting Yourself From Hepatitis B

Your Liver, Your Life:
Protecting Yourself From Hepatitis B



What is hepatitis B?
How do you get hepatitis B?
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
How can I tell if I have hepatitis B?
How do you treat hepatitis B?
How can I avoid getting hepatitis B?


What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus, one of a group of viruses that cause liver infection (including hepatitis A, C, and E). Most cases of hepatitis go away by themselves. Some lead to long-term liver disease and even liver cancer. That is why it is important to protect yourself against hepatitis B. back to top

How do you get hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease, which means that it is passed from person to person. Hepatitis B can be passed when sharing needles for I.V. drug abuse. You can get hepatitis B during sex. And the virus can be passed from mother to infant during pregnancy. back to top

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
You may not have any symptoms for one to six months after you've been exposed to the hepatitis B virus. The most common symptom of hepatitis B is jaundice. Jaundice causes a yellow tinge to the whites of your eyes and to your skin color. This is because with hepatitis, the liver isn't able to get rid of bilirubin, a yellowish substance in the blood. When bilirubin isn't filtered out by your liver, it builds up in your body and causes the yellowish tint to your eyes and skin.

With hepatitis B you may also feel sick to your stomach, have no appetite, and feel very tired. The upper right side of your belly may hurt if it is touched. Other symptoms include general itching, pain in your joints, and a rash. back to top

How can I tell if I have hepatitis B?
There are special blood tests that can easily determine if you have hepatitis B. See your health professional if you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis B. back to top

How do you treat hepatitis B?
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis B. Your health professional will want you to get plenty of rest. You'll need to take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and limiting your activity for several weeks or more. Your health professional will repeat your blood tests in a few months to make sure that you have not developed chronic (long-lasting) hepatitis. back to top

How can I avoid getting hepatitis B?
There is a vaccine against hepatitis B now. All babies must be vaccinated, but older girls may not have been vaccinated yet. That's why the vaccine is recommended for all preteens. In some states, all teens have to be vaccinated in order to go to school. The vaccine is given in three shots over a period of six months. You cannot get hepatitis B from the vaccine.

Hepatitis B can sometimes lead to serious health problems so it makes sense to avoid getting it in the first place. Here's how:
  • Avoid I.V. drug abuse.
  • Never share needles.
  • If you are sexually active, always practice safe sex by insisting that any partner use a condom.
  • If you are sexually active, ask your partner if he or she has any contagious infections, including hepatits B.
And take care of yourself! back to top

 
 
 
Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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