Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver.
Hepatitis B can be is very infectious and is easily transmitted by all types of sex and by sharing needles.
Hepatitis B can be avoided by getting tested and vaccinated.
Many people notice no hepatitis symptoms at all especially in the early stages.
However, some people get an acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, pale faeces (poo), extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In a small number of people with acute illness they can develop liver failure, which can lead to death. This is rare.
To test for hepatitis B a blood test is taken. Your health care provider will ask for certain tests depending on your circumstances and explain what the results mean for you.
Some people will naturally clear the virus. Others may have treatment which in some cases can clear the virus. If the infection remains (becomes chronic), long-term medication can manage symptoms and prevent long-term damage to health (for example cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer).
Both hepatitis B and hepatitis A can be prevented with vaccination. The hepatitis vaccines are freely available in sexual health services. The vaccine is usually given over a period of months and usually involves three injections. You’ll be asked to return after you have completed the course for a blood test to check how you have responded. Some people respond really well and never need to be checked again, some people respond less well and may need boosters in the future. A small number of people don’t respond to the vaccine.