Understanding Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

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

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?

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 are pregnant. In some cases, if you have the virus, your doctor 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.