Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It is transmitted through bodily fluid and is most highly concentrated in blood. Risk factors include:
Travel to or immigration from regions with high infection rates of hepatitis B, such as Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Eastern Europe
Shared needles during intravenous drug use
End-stage renal disease
Unprotected sex with someone who's infected with hepatitis B
Living with someone who has a chronic hepatitis B infection
Men who have sex with men
Acute hepatitis B occurs in the first 3 to 6 months after you contract the virus. This condition needs no treatment other than careful testing and monitoring of liver function.
In chronic hepatitis B, the virus has not left your body. People with chronic hepatitis may have no symptoms, even though gradual liver damage may be occurring. Those who are chronically infected carry the virus and may pass it to others, and are at risk for developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Acute hepatitis B needs no treatment other than careful testing and monitoring of liver function. Some patients with chronic hepatitis B may be treated with antiviral medications.
While it cannot be completely cured, these medications can reduce inflammation and infection and may lower your risk of developing liver cancer.
It is very important that if you are on hepatitis B treatment that you not stop this treatment without talking to your healthcare professional.
People with advanced liver disease from hepatitis B, liver cancer, or acute liver failure may be candidates for liver transplant.