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First Symptoms of Hepatitis B in Men

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Hepatitis B, or HBV, is a type of liver infection. When left untreated, it can lead to liver failure, cancer, and even death. That’s why it’s important to learn to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hepatitis B in men. By recognizing these symptoms early, you can get the treatment you need as quickly as possible.

The First Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B in Men

Hepatitis B is spread when you come into contact with blood, open sores, or bodily fluids of someone who has the hepatitis B virus.

Some of the early warning signs and symptoms of hepatitis B include all of the following:

  • Jaundice, including yellow skin all over your body, and yellowing in the whites of your eyes
  • Brown or orange colored urine (also caused by jaundice)
  • Light-colored feces
  • Fever
  • Chronic fatigue that persists for weeks or months
  • Stomach issues, including loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
  • Belly pain

Approximately one third of men with hepatitis B will show no symptoms at all after catching the virus. Others may only experience mild symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to visit a medical professional for a formal diagnosis.

It may take up to 1 to 6 months for hepatitis B symptoms to appear. In many cases, people don’t realize they have hepatitis B until they get the blood tests back from their doctor.

How is Hepatitis B Transmitted?

Hepatitis B is transmitted when you come into contact with the bodily fluids, blood, or open sores of someone with the hepatitis B virus.

It’s commonly transmitted through:

  • Unprotected sex (oral, vaginal, and anal sex)
  • Contact with blood or an open sore
  • Sharing needles or syringes, or any item that contacts another person’s blood or fluid (like a razor)

Men who have sex with men have a greater risk of developing hepatitis B. Infants can also develop a hepatitis B infection at birth from an infected mother.

If someone has had the hepatitis B virus for more than 6 months, then they become a carrier – even if they don’t have symptoms. That means they can give the disease to someone else through the methods listed above.

Hepatitis B will disappear in a small number of carriers. In others, hepatitis B is a chronic condition. However, only 5 to 10% of adults and children over age 5 with hepatitis B will end up with a chronic infection.

Children under the age of 5 have a significantly higher chance of their hepatitis B infection turning into a chronic condition. In fact, newborns infected at birth have a 90% chance of developing hepatitis B as a chronic condition.

Unlike other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B infection rates have gone down. The CDC reports that approximately 200,000 people per year were receiving hepatitis B in the 1980s, compared to around 18,000 in 2012.

The disease is most common among men and women between ages 20 and 49. Today, approximately 1.4 million people in the United States are hepatitis B carriers.

Carriers cannot donate blood, plasma, organs, tissue, or sperm. It’s important to tell people who deal with your bodily fluids about your hepatitis B infection – including sexual partners, dentists, and doctors.

General Symptoms of Hepatitis B in Men

We mentioned the most common initial symptoms of hepatitis B in men above. Watch for symptoms like the following to appear within 1 to 6 months after contracting the infection:

  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Abdominal discomfort or belly pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice) or yellowing of the whites of the eyes
  • Orange or yellow urine (caused by jaundice)

Remember: approximately one third of infected individuals will develop no symptoms whatsoever. If you believe you came into contact with someone with hepatitis B, get yourself checked as quickly as possible.

What to Do If You Think You Have Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B symptoms in men can be difficult to spot. If you suspect you have hepatitis B, it’s important to visit a doctor as quickly as possible. As with most infections, the sooner you treat hepatitis B, the less severe the health effects will be.

If your doctor believes you have hepatitis B, then you’ll receive a complete physical exam. The doctor will check your liver to see if it’s healthy. To confirm a hepatitis B diagnosis, the doctor will collect a blood sample. Those blood samples are sent to a lab, where they’re checked for antibodies that fight the hepatitis B virus.

After you’ve had the virus for six months, it may become a chronic infection. In this case, a doctor may order a biopsy (i.e. they’ll take a tissue sample from your liver). This tells the doctor how severe your hepatitis B case is.

Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, the doctor will administer different treatments, depending on the severity of your illness.

The doctor may give you a vaccine and a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin, for example. The globulin boosts your immune system, giving it a better chance of defeating the infection.

Some doctors will also recommend bed rest during this time period. Your body has a better chance of fighting off the hepatitis B virus if it’s at rest. You should also avoid putting undue stress on your liver during this time – so avoid things like alcohol and acetaminophen.

If your infection continues after six months, then the doctor may prescribe different medications to treat your chronic hepatitis B infection. Popular medications include Interferon alfa (also known as Intron A, Roferon A, or Sylatron), Lamivudine (3tc, Epivir, Epivir A/F, Epivir HBV, or Heptovir), or Tenofovir (Viread).

Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis B in Men

Take Charge of Your Health

Getting tested is not only quick and easy, it’s the only way to know for sure if you do or do not have an STD.

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Do men experience different hepatitis B symptoms than women? The most common hepatitis B symptoms (fatigue, jaundice, weakness, and dark urine) are the same for men and women infected with hepatitis B.

Are men at a higher risk of hepatitis B? Men who have sex with men have a higher risk of contracting hepatitis B.

Can I die from hepatitis B? Men can die from complications related to hepatitis B. Those complications could include liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver failure, liver cancer, and death.

About Monica Silva

Monica Silva graduated from University of Michigan School of Public Health studying health behavior and health education. She is passionate about improving access to sexual and reproductive health care, and addressing gender-based violence. She was involved in reproductive health advocacy and the creation of Youth Friendly Pharmacies that provide a wide spectrum of sexual and reproductive health services.

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