Hepatitis B Symptoms

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne viral infection that can cause serious damage to the liver if not treated. Hepatitis B symptoms can be severe, mild, or even non-existent depending on the person infected.

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What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which infects the liver. There are five different hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E. “Hepatitis” is defined as inflammation of the liver, thus all of these viruses have a negative effect on the liver. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted through sexual contact.

Hepatitis B can be either acute (when it lasts 6 months or less) or chronic (when it never goes away). For many people the disease is mild, but it can be serious and lead to life-threatening problems such as cirrhosis (scarring) or cancer of the liver. Luckily, there is a vaccine to help prevent infection.

How do I know if I have hepatitis B?

Since symptoms can be mild, delayed, or absent entirely, the only way to know for sure if you have hepatitis B is to utilize the services of a reputable provider of STD testing services. As far as symptoms go, if you’re noticing mild or severe abdominal pain or unusually dark urine, you’ll want to get checked immediately. Mind you, you may not experience symptoms for several months after becoming infected. If you know for a fact that you’ve been exposed to hepatitis B, you’ll want to consult with your physician regardless of whether or not you are experiencing symptoms.

How is hepatitis B contracted?

Hepatitis B is spread by the transfer of bodily fluids such as blood or semen from an infected individual into a non-infected individual. Such a transfer can certainly occur during unprotected sex, but be aware that other less intimate actions can also be cause for alarm. Sharing drug injection needles is certainly a risky behavior and is a common way to spread hepatitis B and other infections. You’ll also want to be cautious about sharing razors, toothbrushes, or medical equipment with someone who is infected. It is also possible for a newborn baby to contract the disease from an infected mother during childbirth.

Can you get hepatitis B from kissing?

Though it is possible for the virus to be found in saliva, it is not believed that the virus is transferred in this fashion. Thus, you cannot catch the disease from kissing, sharing utensils, sharing drinks, or merely being in the presence of an infected person.

Can you get hepatitis B without having sex?

Any action during which blood or semen is transferred from one person to another is potentially dangerous when it comes to the transmission of hepatitis B. This would include sharing intravenous needles or razor blades. Newborns are also at risk of contracting the disease from an infected mother during childbirth. However, in the vast majority of everyday happenings and common interactions, you are not at risk of contracting hepatitis B.

Can anyone contract hepatitis B?

Yes, anyone who is not vaccinated can potentially contract hepatitis B. Those who have multiple sexual partners or engage in risky behavior such as intravenous drug use are at the greatest risk. No one is naturally immune to hepatitis B.

How is hepatitis B prevented?

Far and away the most effective way to prevent the spread of hepatitis B is to get vaccinated. Generally, doctors will recommend newborns get their first dose of the vaccine within 24 hours of being born (additional vaccines come later in the child’s first year).

Do condoms protect against hepatitis B

Apart from the vaccine, practicing safe sex and using condoms correctly has been proven as highly effective when it comes to minimizing the spread of hepatitis B. Here’s a quick refresher on how to use condoms effectively. Keep in mind, condoms will only reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis B. They will not eliminate the risk entirely.

What do hepatitis B symptoms look like?

Ranging from mild to severe, the most common symptoms associated with hepatitis B include dark urine, abdominal pain, fever, and loss of appetite. You may also experience joint pain and general weakness or fatigue. Keep in mind that symptoms do not appear right away and may take weeks or even months to appear after infection. If you feel you’ve been exposed to hepatitis B, do not wait for symptoms to arise. Take a reliable hepatitis B test and, if confirmed, consult with your physician immediately.

What can I expect when I get tested for hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is diagnosed with a blood test that looks for antibodies to HBV (made by your immune system) plus evidence of the virus itself. The hepatitis B test can tell whether you have an acute HBV infection, had an infection in the past, or if you have been vaccinated. It takes an average of 4 weeks after you are infected for this test to be positive, so it is possible to have a false negative test result during this time.

With Priority STD Testing, simply select the hepatitis B test you need (or a panel option that includes a hepatitis B test) from our online catalog, find the closest testing facility, and stop by at your convenience. Tests take only a few minutes and most people are in and out in under a half hour. In most cases, you’ll have your results in as little as 24-72 hours.

What can I expect from hepatitis B treatment?

While there is no cure for hepatitis B, most people’s immune systems can fight off the virus in a relatively short amount of time. Any visible symptoms typically go away on their own after several weeks, but they may last up to six months. Most of the time, people can beat the virus with nothing more than rest, healthy food, and plenty of fluids.

For those with chronic hepatitis B, the goal of treatment is to prevent liver damage and to prevent the spread of the virus to others. Antiviral drugs may be prescribed. People infected with HBV should also avoid anything else that could cause liver damage, including certain vitamins, medications, nutritional supplements, and especially alcohol.

Is hepatitis B curable?

Hepatitis B is treatable by way of antiviral medication, but it is not curable at this time. While a vaccine can ensure that you never develop the infection in the first place, those who are unvaccinated cannot rid themselves of hepatitis B with anything more than time. After a few months, or in some cases longer, the infection will disappear from your body. You can confirm that you are no longer infected by way of a simple hepatitis B test or a visit to your physician’s office. Once you’ve been infected and cleared, you cannot contract the virus a second time.

What happens if hepatitis B goes untreated?

If left untreated entirely, hepatitis B can leave a person more susceptible to liver scarring or liver cancer. This is primarily a concern with those experiencing chronic hepatitis B and less so for those whose symptoms and infections subside over time.

How will hepatitis B affect my pregnancy?

As it is possible for mothers to transmit the virus to babies during childbirth, it is recommended that all pregnant women be tested for HBV even if they’ve had the vaccine. Pregnant women at risk of contracting hepatitis B should talk with their physicians about getting vaccinated. Babies born to mothers with hepatitis B can get the vaccine immediately after birth to reduce the chances of getting infected. There is no need to delay breastfeeding as the risk of transmitting hepatitis B to a nursing infant is minimal provided the child has had at least the first of three hepatitis B vaccine doses.

How do I get tested for hepatitis B?

Getting tested for hepatitis B involves a simple blood test which can be ordered from the Priority STD site and administered at any one of our 4,000+ testing facilities. Results are typically available in just 24-72 hours.

Can I take an at-home hepatitis B test?

While there are at-home testing options for hepatitis B, be warned that administering a test yourself can certainly affect the accuracy of your results. Be wary of at-home options that are not approved by the FDA. Though many brands will claim to be just as accurate as any other option, the truth is you simply don’t know what you’re getting. In addition, in using a self-administered testing kit, directions can sometimes be unclear which can lessen your chances of an accurate reading. The best case when it comes to accurate hepatitis B testing is to find a reputable STD testing service and let the experts handle the process start to finish.

What if I have additional questions?

If you have questions about the hepatitis B testing process, or are wondering if you should get tested, contact one of our Priority STD Testing care counselors. They’ll be able assist you in finding the right tests, understanding your results, and planning for future steps to get you back on the path to wellness.

Medically reviewed by Amy Cyr MD
Reviewed on 12/14/2021
Hepatitis B Symptoms
  • No noticeable symptoms

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