Hepatitis B guide

Hepatitis B complications

What if hepatitis B is untreated?

Left undiagnosed and untreated, chronic (long-term) hepatitis B infection often develops into a serious illness that can lead to:

  • Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
  • Liver failure
  • Liver cancer
  • Blood vessel inflammation (vasculitis)
  • Increased susceptibility to hepatitis D infection

Hepatitis B and HIV

People who have hepatitis B and are HIV-positive are more likely to suffer from chronic hepatitis B complications. In fact, research shows that chronic hepatitis B infection affects approximately 10% of HIV-infected patients worldwide. To minimize your risk of becoming infected or spreading hepatitis B infection to others, get tested if you think you might have been exposed, and continue to use latex condoms...and if you use a needle to inject drugs, be sure it's sterile and don't share it with anyone else.

In general, someone who has one STD is at greater risk for infection with other STDs, including HIV. That's because STDs that cause ulcers, sores, or otherwise break the skin or mucous membranes make carriers more susceptible to infection...also, someone with one or more STDs may have a weakened immune system that makes them more vulnerable to other diseases.

Hepatitis B and pregnancy

Pregnant women with hepatitis B may transmit the virus to their babies at or before delivery. But if women are tested before their pregnancy – or early in their pregnancy – and treated with neonatal vaccination, the risk to their babies is significantly reduced.

If you're pregnant and concerned about hepatitis B, be sure to consult your regular doctor.

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."