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Hepatitis B


Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The infection is called acute when a person first becomes infected. The infection becomes chronic (long-term) when a person has symptoms for 6 months or longer.


Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a sudden, severe headache and head pressure.

  • You have new or increased bruising or red or purple dots on your skin. You may also have bleeding that does not stop easily.

  • Your abdomen is swollen.

  • You have severe nausea or cannot stop vomiting.

  • You see blood in your urine or bowel movements, or you vomit blood.

  • You have new or increased yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

  • You have severe pain in your upper abdomen.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • The palms of your hands are red.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have new or increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.

  • Your muscles get smaller and weaker.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Check with your healthcare provider before you take any medicine. This includes over-the-counter medicine, herbs, and vitamins. Some medicines can affect or damage your liver.

  • Antiviral medicines help fight the virus that causes hepatitis B and keep it from spreading in your body.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need ongoing tests or treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage hepatitis B:

  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can increase liver damage. Talk to your healthcare provider if you drink alcohol and need help to stop.

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage hepatitis B. Smoking can also lead to more liver damage. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats and fish, and whole-grain breads. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Drink more liquids. Liquids help your liver function properly. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Prevent the spread of HBV:

  • Cover any open cuts or scratches. If blood from a wound gets on a surface, clean the surface with bleach right away. Put on gloves before you clean. Throw away any items with blood or body fluids on them, as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Do not share personal items. These items include toothbrushes, nail clipper, and razors. Do not share needles.

  • Tell household members that you have HBV. People who live with you should be vaccinated against HBV. If they have not been vaccinated, they may need to start treatment to help prevent infection. Regular handwashing is important for you and everyone in your home. Everyone should wash after the bathroom and before eating.

  • Tell your sex partners that you have HBV. Use a condom during sex. Even if you have acute HBV and your infection goes away, you can still spread the virus for up to 6 months.

  • Protect your baby. If you are pregnant, ask your healthcare provider for more information on keeping your baby from getting HBV. He will need a vaccination or treatment if you plan to breastfeed.

  • Do not donate blood, organs, or tissues. Donations are screened for HBV, but it is best not to donate at all.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.