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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B Symptoms and Causes

Hepatitis B Description

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that sometimes causes permanent damage. Hepatitis B (HBV) is a blood-borne microorganism transmitted by exposure to the hepatitis B virus through infectious body fluids or blood.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

There is a wide range of Hepatitis B symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of hepatitis B. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Hepatitis B symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Clay colored or light stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Occasionally, skin rashes, arthralgias (joint pain) and arthritis occur
  • Enlarged liver

Hepatitis B symptoms may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Most children, 4 years or younger, and newly infected immunosuppressed adults are asymptomatic, whereas 30% to 50% of persons, 5 years and older, have initial signs and symptoms.

Hepatitis B Causes

Transmission of hepatitis B virus occurs through blood and body fluid exposure such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or saliva. Needle sticks, sharp instruments, sharing items (razors, toothbrushes) and sex with an infected person are primary modes of transmission. Infants may also develop the disease if they are born to a mother who has the virus. Infected children often spread the virus to other children if there is frequent contact or a child has many scrapes or cuts.

One out of 20 people in the US will develop hepatitis B at some time during their lives. The following describes persons who are at risk for developing hepatitis B:

  • Children born to mothers who have hepatitis B (the illness may present up to five years after the child is born)
  • Children who are born to mothers who have immigrated from a country where hepatitis B is widespread such as southeast Asia and China
  • Persons who live in long-term care facilities or who are disabled
  • Persons who live in households where another member is infected with the virus
  • Persons who have a blood-clotting disorder such as hemophilia
  • Persons who require dialysis for kidney failure
  • Persons who may participate in high-risk activities such as intravenous (IV) drug use and/or unprotected heterosexual or homosexual sexual contact
  • Persons who have a job that involves contact with human blood
  • Persons who received blood transfusions or blood products before the early 1990s