Hepatitis B at a Glance
- A kind of liver infection
- Often has no symptoms
- No cure, but the infection often goes away on its own
- Many states require the hepatitis B vaccine for school children
- Can be spread during sex play
- Easily spread with or without symptoms
- Condoms offer good protection for people not vaccinated
We all want to protect ourselves and each other from infections like hepatitis B. Learning more about hepatitis B is an important first step.
Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about hepatitis B. We hope you find the answers helpful, whether you think you may have hepatitis B, have been diagnosed with it, or are just curious about it.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by a virus (called the hepatitis B virus, or HBV). It can be serious and there's no cure, but the good news is it's easy to prevent. You can protect yourself by getting the hepatitis B vaccine and having safer sex. If you have oral, anal, and vaginal sex, use condoms and dental dams to help stop the spread of hepatitis B and other STDs.
How do you get hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is really contagious. It's transmitted through contact with semen(cum), vaginal fluids, blood, and urine. You can get it from:
- having vaginal, anal, or oral sex (using a condom or dental dam during sex can help prevent it)
- sharing toothbrushes and razors (blood on them can carry hepatitis B)
- sharing needles for shooting drugs, piercings, tattoos, etc.
- getting stuck with a needle that has the Hep B virus on it.
Hepatitis B can also be passed to babies during birth if their mother has it.
Hepatitis B isn't spread through saliva (spit), so you CAN'T get hepatitis B from sharing food or drinks or using the same fork or spoon. Hepatitis B is also not spread through kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding.
Are there other types of hepatitis?
Yes, the most common kinds of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is the kind that is most likely to be spread through sex. Learn about other kinds of hepatitis.
Symptoms of hepatitis B.
About half of adults with hepatitis B never get any symptoms. The symptoms can also feel like other illnesses, like the flu. So it's possible to have the infection and not know it.
When people do show signs of hepatitis B, the first ones usually show up between 6 weeks and 6 months after they got the virus. Hepatitis B symptoms typically last for a few weeks, but can sometimes stick around for months.
These are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B:
- feeling really tired
- pain in your belly
- losing your appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- pain in your joints
- dark-colored urine (pee)
- pale, clay-colored bowel movements (poop)
- jaundice — when your eyes and skin get yellow
If you have any symptoms of hepatitis B, it's important to check with a doctor or nurse for testing. Hepatitis B usually will go away by itself, but it may become chronic and seriously damage your liver.
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins