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Understanding Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver. Certain viruses can cause hepatitis. One is the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B can lead to serious liver damage and liver cancer.

How is HBV diagnosed?

Healthcare provider preparing to take blood from woman’s arm.

HBV can be diagnosed with a blood test. It some cases, HBV may cause symptoms. These may include:

  • Pain in the upper right part of your belly

  • Flulike symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, headache, and sore muscles and joints

  • Upset stomach (nausea), vomiting, and diarrhea

  • Yellowed skin or eyes, swollen belly, light gray or clay-colored stools, and dark yellow urine (jaundice)

  • Bruising or bleeding too easily (if the liver is damaged)

  • Liver stops working (liver failure)

Preventing the spread

A vaccine may prevent hepatitis B in people who don’t yet have it. Ask any sex partners and anyone who lives with you to get tested and vaccinated. HBV is spread through blood and bodily fluids. If you have hepatitis B, follow these rules so you don’t give the virus to others.


  • Use condoms each time you have sex. And let your partner know you have hepatitis.

  • Cover all skin breaks and sores. If someone helps you, have them wear protective gloves.

  • Get tested for hepatitis B if you're pregnant. In some cases, if you have the virus, your healthcare provider will advise treatment to help slow the spread of the virus to the baby. Get prenatal care so the correct blood tests can be done.


  • Don’t donate blood, plasma, sperm, or body organs or tissue.

  • Don’t share needles, syringes, straws, or any other drug equipment.

  • Don’t share razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, blood glucose monitors, eating utensils, or other personal items.

  • Don’t get tattoos or body piercings from businesses that don’t have a license. And don’t get them done in informal settings.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.