Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The infection is further categorized as Acute and Chronic, which is defined by the time period of the infection. The acute liver infection can continue for 6 months and chronic liver infection are long lasting, causing scarring of liver, cirrhosis, cancer and liver failure. It can pose a serious risk to life, if left untreated.
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.
Chronic hepatitis B infection is a serious medical condition and those exposed to chronic hepatitis B infections 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.
Hepatitis B is communicable in nature and gets transmitted from one person to another via bodily fluids. When people come in contact with the infected person’s blood, or open sores, the hepatitis B virus is transferred. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her child, during or shortly after birth.
Infections spread via sexual intercourse with the infected person or through the use of needles, blades and razors which are already infected by the hepatitis B virus. Other factors, through which the infection may spread include blood transfusions, working in healthcare, dialysis, traveling to a country where the infection rate is high, etc.
The Hepatitis B virus does not spread via saliva, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding. So holding hands, sharing utensils, hugging and kissing do not pose any risk.
There are five types of hepatitis and hepatitis B should not be confused with other hepatitis.
- Hepatitis A: The infection is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV). The main reason behind this infection is the consumption of water or food contaminated by the feces of a person infected with hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B: It gets transmitted when an individual comes in contact with infected bodily fluids which include vaginal secretions, blood, semen, etc. These bodily fluids contain hepatitis B virus (HBV).
An individual can come in contact with infected bodily fluids via infected needles, razors, intercourse with an infected partner, etc.
- Hepatitis C: The virus responsible for the disease is hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is a blood-borne viral infection and can get transmitted from one person to other via sexual contact, needle sharing, etc.
- Hepatitis D: It is also called delta hepatitis and is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It is a serious liver disease and gets transmitted via infected blood.
This is a rare form of hepatitis which occurs along with hepatitis B infection. The hepatitis D virus can’t propagate in the absence of hepatitis B virus.
- Hepatitis E: It is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease and the main cause of transmission of the disease is poor sanitation. Poor sanitation is a result of fecal matters which contaminates the water.
There are no symptoms experienced in the initial 30 days. However, it can be diagnosed after 60 days of exposure to the Hepatitis B Virus. Some of the changes in the body that signify the onset of the disease is mentioned below:
- Abdominal pain: The pain is experienced in the upper right side of the abdomen as the liver is located at this side. The reasons behind pain might be the increase in the size of the liver, inflammation of the liver, accumulation of fat in the liver, or certain kind of injury in the liver.
If this symptom is experienced continuously, a medical professional should be consulted and the exact cause should be diagnosed.
- Dark Urine: The liver is responsible for destructing the red blood cells through which bilirubin is produced. Bilirubin is later modified in a pigment called bile which is again excreted by the liver, in the form of urine.
When the amount of bilirubin increases in the body, bile is also produced and excreted out through urine in large amount. This causes dark urine.
- Bruising: Due to liver damage or it’s under functioning, the production of proteins which are responsible for blood clotting gets inhibited. This results in easy bruise and bleeding.
- Fever: Increase in body temperature indicates that the immune system is trying to fight some infection and so is in the case of hepatitis B; it is also an infection caused by Hepatitis B virus (HBV).
The rise in the body temperature helps resolve an infection. However, if temperature increases too high, the fever may be due to some other condition and can lead to further complications in the body.
- Appetite loss: This condition is termed “anorexia” in medical terms. This is one of the common symptoms observed in people suffering from liver disease. It doesn’t clearly indicate hepatitis B; however, if the symptom is persistent, there is a high chance of the disease.
- Nausea and vomiting: When bilirubin and bile get blocked in the bile duct, an individual may experience nausea followed by vomiting.
The cause should be diagnosed and treated. If it left untreated, an individual may get further complications.
- Weakness and Fatigue: It is a common complaint by people suffering from hepatitis B regardless of the cause of the disease. The symptom may be mild, sharp, constant or intermittent.
The severity of the liver disease cannot be related to the severity of the exhaustion. There has been a case of low fatigue and weakness while the disease seems to be quite serious and vice-versa.
The cause of weakness and fatigue may be anemia, lack of proper diet or rest, no exercise, anemia and sometimes depression . In any of the case, a proper diagnosis is needed and the respective treatment should be followed without any delay.
- Yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes: Yellowing of skin and whites of eyes occur due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the tissues and blood vessels. The accumulation occurs when the liver becomes unable to regulate the healthy level of bilirubin and excrete the filtered bilirubin.
Hepatitis B virus attacks the liver and interferes with its normal functioning. The symptom is evident in Jaundice as well.
The normal coloring returns only when the body gets rid of the excessive bilirubin in the body.
Ans: It is a communicable disease which gets transmitted through infected bodily fluids which include blood, semen, etc. The virus directly affects the liver cells.
Later, the immune system recognizes and destroys the liver cells which are affected by hepatitis B virus. Eventually, it causes liver damage resulting in cirrhosis, liver damage or reduced liver function. Presence of virus in the blood increases the risk of liver cancer.
Ans: Following is a list of people who are at high risk of hepatitis B:
- People who had unprotected intercourse with an infected person
- Coming into contact with the infected blood
- Born or visiting in the area where hepatitis B is very common
- Sharing a needle
- Person who are consistently exposed to blood such as patients of hemodialysis
- Use of intravenous drugs or inhalation of drugs
Ans: If a person is already infected with hepatitis B virus and is suffering from a chronic infection then it is not recommended to get vaccinated by the Hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine will be of no use.
However, family members and sexual partner should be vaccinated if they do not have an infection as it will reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.
Ans: Recovery depends on the severity of the infection. If an individual is suffering from an acute hepatitis B infection then the infection will get cured on its own by altering the lifestyle or undergoing proper treatment.
In case of chronic infection, a method such as antiviral therapy is given to control the virus and restrict the liver damage from spreading further.
Ans: Hepatitis B infection can turn into cirrhosis but that depends how active the virus is and how long it has been staying in the body
The risk of cirrhosis can be reduced by identifying and treating the hepatitis B virus at the right time.
Ans: Yes, hepatitis B can be the reason of liver cancer if the hepatitis B virus is very active. The risk can be reduced by proper antiviral therapy.
People suffering from chronic hepatitis B virus should be diagnosed with liver cancer also.
Ans: The infection can be diagnosed by blood tests which will be prescribed by a doctor.
Ans: Some of the options available for hepatitis B treatment is oral antiviral pills, injected medicine also called as pegylated interferon.
The antiviral medications include entecavir and tenofovir. These medications have high potential and ensure few side effects.
People suffering from chronic hepatitis B infections need treatment for a few years and for others the treatment may continue for lifelong.
In the case of acute hepatitis B infections, there is no routine treatment as the patients will recover on their own.
Ans: Medical evaluation such as a blood test is one of the ways to determine the need for treatment. People suffering from hepatitis B do not feel sick usually, not even when the disease is causing liver damage.
Also, continuous monitoring is recommended in case of an individual suffering from chronic hepatitis B.
Ans: Yes, any individual with chronic liver infection or inflammation can develop cirrhosis regardless of alcohol consumption. Anyway, alcohol is strictly prohibited for hepatitis B patients.
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