Alternate Names : Serum Hepatitis
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
processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later
making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and
vitamins A, B12,
D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also
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
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
transfusion, though blood is now
screened for hepatitis B to prevent this form of transmission