Patient Care

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver".

Hepatitis B essentially means an infection with the virus Hepatitis B.

The liver is susceptible to damage by the Hepatitis B virus. The extent of the damage is variable as it relies upon the liver's ability to repair itself and the body's immune system to control the infection.

The complications of this infection include liver scarring (medically known as cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure.

All these complications are potentially life-threatening.

Hepatitis B virus

There is an estimated 300 million carriers of the Hepatitis B virus in the world, with over 500,000 dying annually from Hepatitis B-related liver disease.

In Singapore, about 4% (1 in 25 persons) of the population has chronic Hepatitis B infection.

What are the signs & symptoms of Hepatitis B?

The symptoms of Hepatitis B infection may manifest differently during acute Hepatitis and chronic Hepatitis, and it may also vary among individuals.

Most infected people may not exhibit any symptoms for many years. However, the absence of symptoms does not necessarily mean that the infection is under control.

Symptoms of acute infection are:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

Symptoms of significant liver damage may include:

  • Jaundice
  • A distended, fluid-filled abdomen (ascites)
  • Edema of the legs
  • Small, spider-like veins, usually on the chest and back (spider angiomas)
  • Confusion
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract
How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

The condition can be diagnosed with a blood test. Testing positive on a HBsAg blood test (Hepatitis B surface Antigen) on at least 2 occasions means that a chronic infection with Hepatitis B is present.

A negative HBsAg test would either imply that the person does not have Hepatitis B infection, or had an infection with Hepatitis B in the past, which has now cleared.

Who is at risk of Hepatitis B?
  • Sexually active individuals with multiple sex partners
  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Household contacts with individuals with Hepatitis B
  • Intravenous drugs users
  • Individuals undergoing Haemodialysis
  • Individuals with chronic liver disease
  • Healthcare workers
What are the treatment options for Hepatitis B?

Vaccines that can effectively prevent infection are now available. Currently, newborns are routinely undergoing vaccination.

People who have never been infected by Hepatitis B can obtain immunity through vaccination. Those who are at risk of Hepatitis B infection are highly recommended to undergo vaccination.


Current medications for Hepatitis B can effectively control the virus and prevent further damage to the liver.

All persons with Hepatitis B should undergo regular medical follow-ups. The purpose is to screen for liver cancer, and any active liver inflammation. In general, most patients require a 6-monthly follow-ups. During the follow-up, an ultrasound will help to detect any suspicious lesions of liver cancer. Early detection of liver cancer plays a vital role in effective cure.

Blood tests include liver function tests to detect any liver inflammation. Alpha fetoprotein is the blood marker for liver cancer. It can aid in the diagnosis of liver cancer.

Patients are advised to avoid alcohol and/or traditional medicines as these substances may cause additional liver damage.

Find A Doctor

Click here to access our Find A Doctor directory for a list of doctors treating this condition across our NUHS institutions.

You can search by -
  • Condition name 'Hepatitis B' AND
  • Institution
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National University Health System
  • National University Hospital
  • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
  • Alexandra Hospital
  • Jurong Community Hospital
  • National University Polyclinics
  • Jurong Medical Centre
  • National University Cancer Institute, Singapore
  • National University Heart Centre, Singapore
  • National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore
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  • Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
  • Faculty of Dentistry
  • Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health
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