Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The virus is infected by sexual contact or if you come into contact with infected blood. Most people who get hepatitis B get completely healthy, but they can still infect others for months. Some have the disease throughout their lives. It is called chronic hepatitis B.
You can get vaccinated against hepatitis B. You can vaccinate yourself for prevention or within a day after you come in contact with the infection.
Symptoms of acute hepatitis B
It takes between two and six months from the time you are infected until you get symptoms.
The severity of the symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. For example, not everyone gets yellow in the skin and some get no symptoms at all. Only about half of adults with hepatitis B have symptoms.
The symptoms usually come in three stages:
The first symptoms
First you get symptoms similar to any other infection, you may feel tired and get a little fever, headaches and body aches. Joint pain and hives are also common . You may feel ill and lose appetite. The phase lasts up to one week.
You turn yellowish
In the second phase, the skin becomes yellowish. The yellow color is most clearly seen in the whites of the eye and this is often where you first see the yellow. If you have a light complexion, it may look like you have a tan with a yellow-red undertone, if you have a dark complexion, the yellow will appear less. In addition, the urine often becomes dark and the stools light. The yellowness disappears after a few weeks.
You may also feel sore in the stomach, just below the ribs on the right side. This is because the liver that sits there is inflamed and swollen.
During this phase, the symptoms that you had during the first week usually disappear.
You get well
The yellowness and symptoms disappear, but you may be tired for a long time.
Fatigue stays long
It is common for you to have reduced appetite and feel tired for several weeks or months after you become ill. You may feel tired both physically and mentally. It can take several months to fully recover.
Young children rarely get symptoms
Children up to five years almost never get any symptoms of hepatitis B. Therefore, it is not noticed if the child has been infected. However, children infected during their first year of life are at great risk of getting a chronic infection that remains throughout their lives.
Chronic hepatitis B
In rare cases, the body’s immune system fails to get rid of the virus. Then the infection becomes chronic. It is counted as chronic hepatitis B if you still have the virus after six months. It is common for the infection to remain there for a lifetime.
Those who have chronic hepatitis B usually have no symptoms. Nevertheless, chronic hepatitis B can sometimes damage the liver and in the long run cause serious liver disease.
When and where should I seek care?
Contact a health center or infection clinic if any of the following are true:
- You have symptoms such as yellow eye whites and yellowish skin.
- You have come into contact with contagious blood or have had unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis B.
It is important that you seek immediate care if you have come into contact with infection. For example, you may have had sex with someone who has hepatitis B or if you have stuck to a needle that has also been used by a person with the disease. You can get a vaccine that prevents you from developing the disease. The vaccine should be taken as quickly as possible and preferably within 24 hours from the time you came in contact with the infection.
So hepatitis B infects
If you have hepatitis B, you are contagious, even if you have no symptoms.
Can infect at six
The hepatitis B virus is found in the blood and in other body fluids. It is common for hepatitis B to be infected during sexual contact, such as vaginal, anal intercourse and oral sex.
Even small amounts of blood can transmit infection between people. It can happen if you get blood on a wound in the skin, or on the mucous membranes of the eye, mouth or genitals. Hepatitis B can also be infected if several people use or stick on the same syringe.
Children can be infected at birth
Children can be infected at birth if the child giving birth has hepatitis B. Children under three are more infectious than older children and adults, and can infect each other during infancy. It is common in countries where many have hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B can be infected for a long time
It takes between two and six months from the time you are infected until you get symptoms. You are contagious already about six weeks before you get any symptoms.
You continue to be contagious for up to six months after feeling healthy again. You can sometimes be contagious longer than that. Those who get chronic hepatitis B are contagious throughout their lives. Through blood tests the doctor can find out if you are contagious or if the infection is gone.
If you have once had hepatitis B, you usually do not donate blood or donate organs .
You can only get hepatitis B once
Most become completely healthy from hepatitis B. Once you have had the disease once and recovered, you are immune to the rest of your life. However, you can still get other types of hepatitis.
If you get any other serious illness, tell your doctor that you once had hepatitis B. This can be important in some powerful treatments, such as treatment with cytostatic drugs .
Hepatitis B should be notified
Hepatitis B is considered a common dangerous disease according to the Infection Protection Act . This means that the doctor who discovers that a person has the disease must report it to the infection control doctor in his county council and to the Public Health Authority .
Hepatitis B is also contagious. This means that the doctor must track where the infection comes from, in order to prevent the spread of the infection to more people.
How can I prevent hepatitis B?
You can vaccinate against hepatitis B. It is the safest way to protect against infection. You can do this at a vaccination center. You take three doses of the vaccine.
You are offered free vaccination if someone close to you has hepatitis B or if you live in an environment where the disease is common. You may also need a vaccine if you have a job where there is a high risk that you will come in contact with infected blood.
Vaccination against hepatitis B is included in the vaccination program for children .
Vaccine if you have come into contact with infection
You can vaccinate after coming into contact with the virus, if you have not been vaccinated before.
Vaccination should take place within a day from the time of infection to have a good effect and make sure that you do not get the disease. You will then get the three vaccine doses more tightly and you will need a fourth dose after one year.
Vaccine yourself before traveling
Vaccination is recommended if you are going on a long trip to countries where hepatitis B is common. Contact a health center or vaccination center well in advance of your trip.
How should I do if someone in my area is contagious?
If you have not been vaccinated but are close to someone who has hepatitis B, avoid contact with contagious blood.
If you get infected blood on the body, wash it immediately with soap and water. Then disinfect the skin with a hand spray. If blood gets into your eyes, nose or mouth, rinse with plenty of water. Then contact your health care provider to start vaccination the same day.
Avoid infection during sexual contact
Use condom or femidom at sex. If you have a partner with hepatitis B, you should vaccinate.
Acute hepatitis B is not usually treated, but the disease heals on its own. Most people are completely healthy.
You can get treatment with medicines that relieve symptoms such as itching or joint pain.
Since medicines can affect the liver, you should always talk to a doctor before taking any medicines, even if they are non-prescription.
Treatment of chronic hepatitis B
There is no treatment that will heal you from chronic hepatitis B, but there are treatments that can inhibit the virus and prevent your liver from deteriorating. If you start to have damage to the liver, such antiviral treatment is recommended to prevent you from getting cirrhosis .
There are two different types of drugs. One is interferon where you take a syringe once a week, for a year. You take the syringes at home but need to go to check-ups at an infection clinic during and after treatment.
If the interferon syringes have no effect, you can instead receive tablets containing antiviral drugs. The tablets are taken every day for several years, often throughout life. You who still receive treatment still need to go on regular medical exams, usually once a year if the treatment works well.
If you already have few cirrhosis and your liver is working poorly then you may need to go for tighter checks and examinations.
To find out if you have hepatitis B virus in your blood, you have to submit a blood test. You will often receive a response within a few days. You will then be given samples to check your liver values and to see if the infection is gone. For most people, the infection has healed after six months.
Regular tests if you have chronic hepatitis B
If the infection does not heal and you get chronic hepatitis B, you may continue to undergo medical checks and have blood tests regularly. It is done to check how contagious you are and to see how the liver works. You usually get blood tests and go to a doctor about once a year, but this can vary.
The checks are usually done by a doctor at an infection clinic, but sometimes you can take the samples to a health care center.
Liver elasticity or liver biopsy
Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver damage. To find out if the liver has been damaged, you usually do a liver elasticity measurement that can evaluate how serious the liver damage is. The doctor or nurse makes the measurement using an apparatus that can measure the elasticity of the liver. The survey does not hurt. It takes five to ten minutes and is often done in conjunction with a reception visit.
Previously, liver biopsy was done instead, then a tissue sample is taken from the liver. This can still be done if the elasticity measurement is difficult to assess.
To consider if you have hepatitis B
Most people with chronic hepatitis B can live as before, with a few exceptions.
Rest and lean food
At first, you may feel so bad that you feel best about being at home and resting, for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. You may need to be sick for several weeks.
If you feel unwell, it can sometimes feel better to eat foods that do not contain as much fat.
In order not to damage the liver further, avoid drinking alcohol until the hepatitis is completely gone. In the case of chronic hepatitis you should always avoid drinking alcohol.
If you have a job where you can infect others
If you have a profession where there is a risk that you may infect others, talk to your doctor for advice. The vast majority can work as usual or can get other work done over a period of time. You can also get sick leave for a period to avoid infecting others.
Avoid certain medicines
Many drugs are broken down in the liver. Always consult your doctor about which medicines you can use. This also applies to prescription drugs.
Rules to follow if you are contagious
To avoid infecting others, you need to follow certain rules:
- Put dressings and patches on wounds, even if small.
- Always pack tampons, sanitary napkins, or anything else that has blood on it carefully before disposing of it in the trash.
- Tell me immediately that you have hepatitis B if someone comes into contact with your blood. The person can then contact the care and receive a vaccine, if needed.
- Don’t have sex with anyone without first telling you that you have hepatitis B.
- Use a condom or femidom if you have sex with a person who is not vaccinated or immune.
- Do not share hygiene items such as razors, toothbrushes or the like.
- Avoid tattooing or piercing yourself as you may bleed. If you still want to do this, you must first tell the staff that you have hepatitis B.
- If you use drugs, do not share syringes, mixing cups or other tools with others.
In contact with the care you need to consider the following:
- Always tell you that you have hepatitis B when you seek care or dental care.
- You must come back for visits and samplings you are called to.
- Tell your doctor if you have a relative who is not vaccinated.
Pregnancy and hepatitis B
If you are pregnant and have hepatitis B, the baby may be infected during childbirth. The newborn baby is then vaccinated so as not to get sick. The child receives the first syringe immediately after birth and three additional doses during the first year. If the child is not vaccinated, there is a high risk of having chronic hepatitis B.
Chronic hepatitis B can cause cirrhosis of the liver, also called liver cirrhosis.
There is also an increased risk of liver cancer , especially if you have livercirrhosis. The risk of contracting any of the sequelae is higher if you also have other hepatitis viruses, weakened immune systems or if you drink alcohol.
Acute hepatitis B can in very rare cases cause a very serious liver inflammation called acute liver necrosis. If you have acute hepatitis B and worsen with anxiety, confusion and extreme fatigue, contact the clinic where you are being monitored. If your values deteriorate, you may need to be hospitalized for observation and treatment.
More about hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The virus is called hepatitis B virus. There are several types of virus-caused hepatitis; hepatitis A , hepatitis B, hepatitis C , hepatitis D and hepatitis E.
Hepatitis is also commonly called jaundice as the skin often turns yellow when you get sick.
The jaundice that newborn babies can get is not hepatitis and is not contagious.
The functions of the liver are affected
The liver cleanses the blood, stores fat and sugar and breaks down certain substances such as alcohol and drugs. It also has significance for some of the body’s hormones and for the blood’s ability to stop bleeding.
When you have acute hepatitis B, the liver is unable to break down certain substances as well anymore. The liver is also unable to clear a yellow substance called bilirubin from the body. This is what allows you to get yellow eye whites and yellowish skin.
Chronic hepatitis B is more common among young children and the elderly
Age is a factor that affects the likelihood of getting chronic hepatitis B. It is more common for young children, the elderly or people with chronic illnesses to develop a chronic hepatitis B. This is because their immune system is worse at fighting the infection.
Influence and participate in your care
In order for you to be able to participate in your care and make decisions, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand. You can also ask to have the information printed so that you can read it peacefully.
You have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter. You have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing loss.