Hepatitis B: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Caused by HBV (Hepatitis B Virus), Hepatitis B is a serious medical condition that affects the liver. In some cases, hepatitis B infection turns into a chronic infection and lasts for over 6 months. Chronic hepatitis B may lead to several life-threatening situations such as liver cancer, cirrhosis, and even liver failures.

Typically, adults suffering from hepatitis B infection are able to recover completely, even in the cases where the symptoms they are suffering from are severe. But in children, especially infants, the likelihood of chronic hepatitis B infection is higher.

Though there is no complete cure for hepatitis B infection, vaccines can help prevent the disease. Infected people must take precautionary measures to stop the infection from spreading to other people.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B:

There are various symptoms of Hepatitis B infection and these symptoms usually range from mild to serious. These symptoms appear in around 1-4 months after catching the infection. However, a patient could notice the symptoms as early as two-three weeks after catching up with the infection. In case of young children, symptoms are rarely found.

Here’s a list of some of the most common symptoms of Hepatitis B:

  • Pain in abdomen
  • Darkening of urine
  • Extreme Fever
  • Pain in joints
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Yellowish eyes

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What Causes Hepatitis B?

As discussed already, HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) causes the Hepatitis B infection. This is a contagious disease and can be passed from the affected person to others via semen, blood contact or other body fluids. However, this virus doesn’t spread by coughing and sneezing.

Some of the most common ways through which Hepatitis B Virus can spread include:

  • Unprotected Sexual contact
  • Sharing of needles
  • Blood contacts
  • Pregnant mother to unborn/newborn babies

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Hepatitis B Risk factors:

There are various risk factors for Hepatitis B infection. An infected person can spread it to others by blood contact, semen or other body fluids.

The risk of catching hepatitis B infection increases for those:

Who practice unprotected sex. Also, those who practice sex with multiple sex partners or an infected person

  • Who share needles
  • Men who involve in sam gender sex
  • Who live with an infected person
  • Who are born to infected mother
  • Who come in contact with infected human blood
  • Who travel to hepatitis B prone regions

What is the complication of hepatitis B?

If not treated properly, chronic Hepatitis B infection may lead to several life-threatening complications.

Some of the many complications of Hepatitis B infection are listed below:

  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Acute Liver failure

Other complications

Hepatitis B patients may also develop some other serious medical conditions including inflammation of blood vessels or kidney diseases.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis B :

To diagnose Hepatitis B, doctors conduct a physical examination and look for liver damages including pale skin or pain in the abdomen.

Some of the many tests that help diagnose hepatitis B and its complications include:

  • Blood tests
  • Transient elastography (Liver ultrasound)
  • Liver biopsy

Screening for Hepatitis B Infection

It is important to conduct regular screening for hepatitis B infections to stay on guard against the disease. Remember, the sooner the infection is diagnosed, the easier it is to properly treat the disease. In addition, hepatitis B infection can damage the liver before you can notice any symptoms of the disease.

Here’s a list of people who must ensure screening of hepatitis B infection:

  • Expecting Mothers
  • Those living with an infected person
  • Those with multiple sexual partners
  • People having sex with an infected person
  • Men having sex with other men
  • Those with a history of STI
  • Those diagnosed with Hepatitis C or HIV
  • Those undergoing kidney dialysis
  • Those who use illicit injected drugs
  • Those born in the hepatitis B prone region

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Treatment of Hepatitis B:

For hepatitis B infection after exposure

People who have not received any vaccination for hepatitis B and have been exposed to the infection must immediately get in touch with a certified medical professional at the earliest. Doctors may prescribe immunoglobulin injection within 12 hours of exposure to the infection in order to safeguard the infected person from catching the infection. Immunoglobulin is an antibody that fights against the hepatitis B virus. However, it is important to remember that immunoglobulin injection only provides protection against hepatitis B for a very short time. That’s why it remains prudent to get vaccinated against hepatitis B soon after getting immunoglobulin injection. This is especially important for those who have not got any vaccination before.

For acute hepatitis B infection

Acute hepatitis B infection affects patients only for a short time and goes away on its own. Those suffering from acute hepatitis B infection do not need any specific treatment. Doctors may advice such people to take proper rest, ensure a healthy and balanced diet, and drink plenty of fluids. In some cases, doctors prescribe antiviral drugs and hospital stays to prevent the infection from complicating.

For chronic hepatitis B infection

Chronic hepatitis B infection is a serious medical condition and those exposed to chronic hepatitis B infection are required to undergo medical treatment for their lifetime. Treatment is required to ensure that the liver doesn’t get damaged due to the infection and there is no risk of liver diseases for the infected person. Also, proper treatment ensures that the affected people do not pass on the infection to others.

Chronic hepatitis B infection treatment includes:

- Antiviral medications - tenofovir (Viread), Entecavir (Baraclude), adefovir (Hepsera), lamivudine (Epivir), and telbivudine (Tyzeka). Remember to consult a doctor before taking these oral drugs.

- Interferon injections. Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A). Remember, it is not advisable not to take interferon injection during pregnancy. There are several side effects of this injection. Some of the most common side effects are vomiting, nausea, depression and breathing difficulty.

- Liver transplant – In case hepatitis B infection damages the liver beyond repair, doctors may suggest patients undergo a liver transplant surgery.

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Prevention from Hepatitis B:

The best way to prevent hepatitis B infection is by ensuring a vaccination against the disease. Hepatitis B vaccination is available in injections and is provided via 3-4 injections over a period of 6 months. Hepatitis B vaccination provides safety against the disease and one can contract the disease via this vaccination.

This vaccination is suitable for:

  • Newborn babies
  • Children not vaccinated at the time of their birth
  • People living with an infected person
  • People who may come in contact with the blood of an infected person
  • People suffering from HIV or other STI
  • Men who practice sex with the same gender
  • People having multiple sex partners
  • People using intravenous injections
  • Patients suffering from chronic liver diseases
  • Patients suffering from kidney diseases
  • Those traveling to hepatitis B prone regions.

Common Myths Related to Hepatitis B:

Myth #1: One may catch Hepatitis B infection by eating contaminated seafood.

Fact: No. Eating contaminated seafood doesn’t cause hepatitis B infection. Remember, hepatitis B virus is present in the blood and body fluids of the infected people. You may get hepatitis B infection by making sexual contact with the infected person, coming in contact with the blood or saliva of the infected person or by sharing intravenous needles with the infected person.

Myth #2: Hepatitis B is a rare disease.

Fact: A lot of people believe that hepatitis B infection is a rare infection and they are not likely to catch the infection. But the truth is akin to this myth. Hepatitis B infection is one of the most common infections in the world and more than one-third of the world population is infected by the disease. In addition, over 350 million people across the globe are reported to have chronic hepatitis B infection. This means that the disease is not so uncommon and can easily spread from one person to another. Therefore, it makes sense for people to get vaccinated to stay protected against the threat of Hepatitis B infection.

Myth #3: People with Hepatitis B can see symptoms like yellow skin or yellow eyes.

Fact: This is yet another myth that plagues around Hepatitis B disease. The truth is, however, shocking. A large number of people infected with hepatitis B virus do not feel sick at all. In fact, experts reveal that around 30% of the infected people do not show any symptoms of the infection. The best way to find out and stay on-guard against hepatitis B infection is by consulting a certified medical professional and getting a blood test done for the diagnosis of hepatitis B infection.

Myth #4: People with Hepatitis B have a serious liver disease or liver cancer.

Fact: Again, this is another myth about hepatitis B infection that a large number of people believe to be true. The truth is that around 90% of the infected people suffer from acute Hepatitis B infection that only lasts for a few weeks. Most people infected with acute hepatitis B infection get well in a matter of a few weeks and do not really face any complications of the disease.

Myth #5: Hepatitis B vaccines can prevent Hepatitis B virus.

Fact: Hepatitis B vaccination work best on those who have never been diagnosed with the medical condition. A large number of countries around the world ensure that children are given hepatitis B vaccinations at the time of their birth. People who get infected by the disease must visit certified medical professionals to understand the best treatment options to treat their hepatitis B infection effectively and easily.

Myth #6: Coming in contact with an infected person’s spit can cause Hepatitis B

Fact: It is not likely to catch HIV infection, including Hepatitis B by coming in contact with someone’s spit. This can happen if the spit contains traces of blood, however; since blood is what causes the virus to spread.

Myth #7: Those who have sinned are punished with Hepatitis B.

Fact: Many cultures across the world believe that deadly and terminal diseases are punishments from the supernatural forces to those who have sinned. Such a moral/cultural belief is what hinders proper treatment of the disease. It is caused merely due to a virus. Like any other disease, it does not have anything to do with the character, beliefs, or ideas of a person. It is an infection caused due to a virus and must receive proper treatment.

Myth #8: People with Hepatitis B cannot have sex.

Fact: Hepatitis B is spread through sexual contact, however, this only happens if there is no barrier-type protection. If a condom is used, the chance of sexual transmission of the disease gets considerably low and the patient can continue to have sex.

Myth #9: Hepatitis B is passed on genetically.

Fact: Hepatitis B is not passed on genetically. Children may get the disease from their parents since it is transmitted through the mother to the child at the time of birth. This can also be avoided if the mother’s status is monitored and adequate medication is used around the time of delivery.

Myth #10: Hepatitis B will develop into other forms of Hepatitis after it is diagnosed.

Fact: Hepatitis B is a specific disease, and while it is similar to other forms of Hepatitis, this does not mean that it can transform into other forms of the disease upon diagnosis. These are all different forms of the disease and not stages, so there is no chance of a specific type of Hepatitis to develop into another.

Myth #11: It is easy to spot when someone has Hepatitis B.

Fact: In the early stages of the disease, it is not possible to spot Hepatitis B. Therefore, one should always use protection during intercourse lest they are infected by a partner. There is no sure shot way to know if someone has Hepatitis B, one should always be careful and protect themselves from the disease.

Myth #12: Once someone is diagnosed with Hepatitis B, they are immune to other types of Hepatitis.

Fact: The various types of Hepatitis infection, Hepatitis A, B, and C, are caused due to different strains of the same virus. It is not possible to achieve a lifelong immunity from other types of hepatitis just because someone is diagnosed with one. A person can catch the other forms of the infectious disease as well, which is why they should always be careful and always use protection.

Myth #13: A healthy carrier of the disease Hepatitis B cannot cause the infection to spread.

Fact: This is a very misleading term as a healthy carrier is not a person who cannot transmit the disease to others; rather it is a person who does not exhibit any symptoms of the diseases. This is why it is sometimes likely for healthy carriers of the disease to not be diagnosed, and therefore they are at a higher risk of transmitting the disease through sexual contact or through blood transfusion.

Myth #14: One cannot breastfeed if they have hepatitis B

Fact: It is safe to breastfeed even if a woman has hepatitis B as the disease is not transmitted through breast milk. Rather, it is important to vaccinate the child to prevent the transmission of the disease from the mother in any other way.

Myth #15: Once vaccinated, no one catches hepatitis B.

Fact : While vaccines provide excellent immunity from the disease, they are not permanent as the immunity can wear off. This is why a person should not risk their health and always take precautions, even if they have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Myth #16: Those patients of Hepatitis B who have been vaccinated cannot cause the disease to spread.

Fact: This is not true. Once diagnosed with the disease, a person becomes a carrier of the disease and no vaccination can prevent them from causing transmission unless proper precautions and preventive measures are taken. Those who share the household with an infected person, however, should get vaccinated so as to reduce their risk of catching the disease.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1) What is the incubation period for hepatitis B?

Ans: Incubation period is referred to as the time period from the time a person gets infected to the time when he or she starts showing the symptoms of the disease. The incubation period for hepatitis B infection is between 6 weeks and 6 months. However, most people experience an incubation period of 2 to 3 months.

2) Can hepatitis B be treated?

Ans: Unfortunately, there are no specific treatments available for hepatitis B infection which is in its early stages. Those suffering from early stages of hepatitis B infection need to ensure the health and balanced diet, and proper rest to ensure complete relief from the disease. In addition, the advanced stages of hepatitis B can be treated by antiviral therapy. It can help reduce the threats of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other liver diseases.

3) Can women with Hepatitis B breastfeed newborn?

Ans: New mothers can breastfeed their newborn babies if the babies have been provided with hepatitis B vaccination and immunoglobulin within 12 hours of their birth. It is highly recommended for new mothers to ensure proper vaccination for their babies so that they can breastfeed them Breastfeeding is very important for newborn babies are breast milk is the best source of vital nutrients for newly born children.

4) Is Hepatitis B hereditary?

Ans: No! Hepatitis B is not hereditary. However, mothers with high hepatitis B virus load may infect their newborn babies.

5) What are the different stages of hepatitis B?

Ans: Hepatitis B infection has different stages. In young age, the hepatitis B infection doesn’t cause much damage to the liver. Later the virus goes in a dormant state and is known as carrier state. One may not need to undergo treatment in this stage of hepatitis B. Only people with hepatitis B infection in the chronic stage are required to undergo proper medical treatment and medication to get rid of the disease.

6) I got hepatitis B. I was told I can’t get married or have kids. is this true?

Ans: There is no reason why a person with hepatitis cannot get married or start a family. Needless to say, to ensure the safety of their partner and family they must take all necessary precautions. They should always use protection and everyone in their house should be vaccinated to be safe against the disease.

7) Children who have been vaccinated can also catch Hepatitis B after they grow up to become adults. Is this true?

Ans: children who have completed the course of vaccination against Hepatitis B successfully are completely immune to the disease. However, no vaccine guarantees 100% immunity, so they can be screened through a blood test to check their status with the disease and their immunity against it.

8) Can hepatitis B be transmitted through mosquito bites?

Ans: Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites or any other insect bites. Insects do not serve as vectors for viral hepatitis.

9) Can hepatitis B be a cause of cirrhosis of the liver?

Ans: Cirrhosis can develop in some patients who have hepatitis B. This risk of this happening is related to how active the virus of hepatitis is and for how long has it been active in the patient. The risk can be minimized by identifying and treating active hepatitis B infection in patients early in its course.

10) Can Hepatitis B cause liver cancer?

Ans: Hepatitis b, since chronic, can be a factor that increases a patient’s risk of cancer of the liver. However, a patient can minimize their risk of developing cancer with the appropriate antiviral treatment.

11) What is HBV reactivation?

Ans: Sometimes a patient whose HBV virus was treated completely may witness a reactivation of the disease, and this is called HBV reactivation.

12) Do babies develop chronic Hepatitis B if they are diagnosed with the disease?

Ans: Yes, while adults can be treated and their Hepatitis B can be cured, when babies are diagnosed with the viral infection, the risk of developing chronic Hepatitis B is extremely high.

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Last updated on : 20-12-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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