Medical Definition of Hepatitis B

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Hepatitis B: Inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis B virus (HBV), once thought to be passed only through blood products. It is now known that hepatitis B can also be transmitted via needle sticks, body piercing and tattooing using un sterilized instruments, the dialysis process, sexual and even less intimate close contact, and childbirth. Symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, light stools. Diagnosis is by blood test. Treatment is via anti-viral drugs and/or hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG).

Chronic hepatitis B may be treated with a variety of medications. Healthcare workers accidentally exposed to materials infected with hepatitis B and individuals with known sexual contact with hepatitis B patients are usually given both HBIG and the hepatitis B vaccine to provide both immediate and long-term protection. HBV infection can be prevented by the hepatitis B vaccine, and by avoiding activities that could lead to getting the virus. Hepatitis B was formerly referred to as serum hepatitis.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/24/2017

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