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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Hepatitis B
      Category : Health Centers > Digestive System

Hepatitis B

Alternate Names : Serum Hepatitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Hepatitis B is an infection and inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is one of several types of hepatitis.

What is going on in the body?

The liver is an important organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It is responsible for:

  • filtering the blood
  • making bile, a substance that aids in digestion and helps rid the body of harmful substances
  • processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later use
  • making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
  • metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and amphetamines
  • storing vitamins A, B12, D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also stores iron and copper.
  • Infection of the liver by a virus can cause hepatitis, which is a term that means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can interfere with normal liver functions. Symptoms of hepatitis B, one of several viruses that can cause hepatitis, can quickly appear. This is called acute hepatitis. Symptoms of infection with the virus can also develop slowly and last a long time. This is called chronic hepatitis. Hepatitis B virus infections can range from mild to severe.

    The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through the blood. After entering the bloodstream, the virus invades the liver cells. It reproduces there and can kill liver cells directly. Many of the symptoms of the disease, including liver inflammation, are caused by the body's immune system reacting to infection with the virus.

    What are the causes and risks of the infection?

    Hepatitis B is spread through exposure to infected blood and by sexual intercourse. People at risk include those who:

  • puncture themselves with contaminated needles and syringes, such as intravenous drug abusers or healthcare workers
  • are stuck with contaminated needles during tattooing, acupuncture, or body piercing
  • are sexually promiscuous, whether homosexual or heterosexual
  • have had an organ transplant or blood transfusion, though blood is now screened for hepatitis B to prevent this form of transmission


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    Hepatitis B: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Thomas Fisher, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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