Hepatitis B (Viral Infection Affecting The Liver): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Hepatitis B (Viral Infection Affecting The Liver): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Hepatitis B is a disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which can lead to serious health problems in the liver, which include liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Transmission of the HBV occurs when an individual comes into contact with the blood, semen, or other body fluid of an infected person. Many people that are infected with the HBV do not have any symptoms, so it is important that high-risk individuals, including those at risk of coming into contact with HBV, get screened and vaccinated according to CDC recommendations. While there is no specific treatment for individuals that are infected, a vaccine is available to protect individuals against an HBV infection. In April 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations were updated to include a two-dose series of HepB-CpG as an option for hepatitis B vaccination for individuals aged 18 years and older.

The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis B in adulthood are able to fight off the virus and fully recover within one to three months. Most will then be immune to the infection for life. Babies and children with hepatitis B are more likely to develop a chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis B affects around: 90% of babies with hepatitis B, 20% of older children with hepatitis B and 5% of adults with hepatitis B. Although treatment can help, there’s a risk that people with chronic hepatitis B could eventually develop life-threatening problems such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.

Hepatitis B infection can’t be self-diagnosed because it’s symptoms are variable. These include yellowing of the eyes, abdominal pain, and dark urine. Some people, particularly children, don’t experience any symptoms. In chronic cases, liver failure, cancer or scarring can occur.

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How Does Hepatitis B Affect Your Body?

In 90% of persons who become infected as adults with hepatitis B, the immune system successfully fights off the infection during the acute phase — the virus is cleared from the body within 6 months, the liver heals completely, and the person becomes immune to hepatitis B infection for the rest of their life. In the other 10%, the immune system cannot clear the virus and hepatitis B infection persists past 6 months, usually for the rest of the person’s life. This persistent state is known as chronic hepatitis B infection.

In chronic hepatitis B infection, the liver becomes inflamed and scarred over a period of years. However, the speed at which inflammation and scarring take place varies between people. Some develop severe liver scarring (cirrhosis) within 20 years. In others, liver disease progresses slowly and does not become a major problem during their lifetime.

What Are The Causes of Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus is found in the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. Hepatitis B can be spread by:

  • A mother to their newborn baby, particularly in countries where the infection is common –babies of infected mothers are vaccinated immediately after birth to help prevent infection.
  • Injecting drugs and sharing needles and other drug equipment.
  • Having sex with an infected person without using a condom.
  • Having a tattoo, body piercing, or medical or dental treatment in an unhygienic environment with unsterilized equipment.
  • Having a blood transfusion in a country where blood isn’t tested for hepatitis B.
  • Sharing toothbrushes or razors contaminated with infected blood.
  • The skin is accidentally punctured by a used needle (needle stick injury) – this is mainly a risk for healthcare workers.
  • The blood of someone with hepatitis B getting into an open wound, cut, or scratch – in rare cases, being bitten by someone with hepatitis B can also spread the infection.
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What Are The Risk Factors of Hepatitis B?

Majorly, the following group of people are at a higher risk of getting hepatitis B infection:

  • Babies born to hepatitis B-infected mothers
  • Close family and sexual partners of someone with hepatitis B
  • People travelling to a part of the world where hepatitis B is widespread, such as sub-Saharan Africa, east and southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands
  • Families adopting or fostering children from high-risk countries
  • People who inject drugs or have a sexual partner who injects drugs
  • People who change their sexual partner frequently
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Male and female sex workers
  • People who work somewhere that places them at risk of contact with blood or body fluids, such as nurses, prison staff, doctors, dentists and laboratory staff
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with chronic kidney disease
  • People receiving regular blood or blood products, and their carers
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What Are The Symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Many people with hepatitis B don’t experience any symptoms and are able to fight off the virus without even realizing they had it. However, if symptoms do develop, they tend to occur two or three months after exposure to the hepatitis B virus. These symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, a fever, and general aches and pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

These symptoms usually pass within one to three months (acute hepatitis B), although occasionally the infection can last for six months or more (chronic hepatitis B). Additional symptoms of chronic hepatitis B include:

  • Tiredness
  • General aches and pains
  • A high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • Dark urine and pale, grey-colored poo
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How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

Hepatitis B can be diagnosed via the following test methods:

  • Blood tests – Blood tests can detect signs of the hepatitis B virus in your body and tell your doctor whether it’s acute or chronic. A simple blood test can also determine if you’re immune to the condition.
  • Liver ultrasound – A special ultrasound called transient elastography can show the amount of liver damage.
  • Liver biopsy – Your doctor might remove a small sample of your liver for testing (liver biopsy) to check for liver damage. During this test, your doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin and into your liver and removes a tissue sample for laboratory analysis.
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How To Prevent & Control Hepatitis B?

The best way to prevent hepatitis B is with vaccination. Other ways to reduce your risk of getting hepatitis B are:

  • Do not inject drugs. If you do inject drugs, stop and get into a treatment program. If you can’t stop, never share needles, syringes, water, or “works”
  • Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them (razors, toothbrushes)
  • If you are a health care or public safety worker, follow universal blood/body fluid precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps
  • If you’re having sex with more than one steady partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Treatment of Hepatitis B – Allopathic Treatment

Following is the method of treatment to prevent hepatitis B infection after exposure:

If you know you’ve been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and aren’t sure if you’ve been vaccinated, contact your doctor immediately. An injection of immunoglobulin (an antibody) given within 12 hours of exposure to the virus may help protect you from getting sick with hepatitis B.

Following is the treatment for acute hepatitis B infection:

If you get diagnosed with acute hepatitis B infection, it means the infection is short-lived and will go away on its own — you may not need treatment. Instead, your doctor might recommend supportive measures like:

  • Resting
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, especially if you’re suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, or fever
  • Maintaining adequate nutrition

You may also take over-the-counter pain medicines if necessary. Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen) may be safer than Tylenol (acetaminophen) for this purpose, according to the Hepatitis B Foundation.

Following is the treatment for chronic hepatitis B infection:

Most people diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B infection need treatment for the rest of their lives. Treatment helps reduce the risk of liver disease and prevents you from passing the infection to others. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B may include:

  • Antiviral medications – Several antiviral medications — including entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread), lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera) and telbivudine (Tyzeka) — can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver.
  • Interferon injections – Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A) is a man-made version of a substance produced by the body to fight infection. It’s used mainly for young people with hepatitis B who wish to avoid long-term treatment or women who might want to get pregnant within a few years, after completing a finite course of therapy. Interferon should not be used during pregnancy.
  • Liver transplant – If your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.
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Hepatitis B  – Lifestyle Tips

Following are some lifestyle tips to be followed by patients of hepatitis B infection:

  • Avoid having unprotected sex – including anal and oral sex, unless you’re sure your partner has been vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • Avoid sharing needles used to inject drugs with other people
  • Take precautions to avoid the spread of infection – such as not sharing toothbrushes or razors with other people; close contacts such as family members may need to be vaccinated
  • Eat a generally healthy, balanced diet – there’s no special diet for people with hepatitis B
  • Avoid drinking alcohol – this can increase your risk of developing serious liver problems
  • Speak to your doctor if you’re thinking of having a baby

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Hepatitis B?

Regular exercise, at least three times a week for half an hour, has many benefits to your overall health and well-being. According to a study, middle-aged men who exercised at least 240 minutes a week were able to greatly improve damage caused by fatty liver disease.

Even brisk walking can be beneficial. Try walking 10 minutes, three to five days a week, and, gradually over the course of several weeks or a few months, make your way up to an hour a day.

Hepatitis B  & Pregnancy – Things to Know

People with hepatitis B can usually have a healthy pregnancy, but it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with a doctor first as you may need extra care and your medications may need to be changed. There’s a risk of pregnant women with hepatitis B passing the infection on to their child around the time of the birth, but this risk can be reduced by ensuring the baby is vaccinated shortly after they’re born.

Common Complications Related to Hepatitis B

In rare cases, acute hepatitis B can cause liver failure, leading to death.

Although chronic hepatitis B often causes no symptoms, about 15 to 25 percent of people with the disease develop serious complications, according to the CDC. These include cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.

Other FAQs About Hepatitis B

Q. What will happen if hepatitis B is left untreated?

A. Acute hepatitis B, if left untreated, can develop into chronic (long-term) hepatitis B, which is more difficult to manage and can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and even death.

Q. Is hepatitis B virus a STD?

A. Hepatitis B is a serious infection of the liver caused by a virus. … The virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva. Hepatitis B is the only sexually transmitted disease that has a safe and effective vaccine to protect against infection

Q. What food is good for hepatitis B?

That diet should include: Plenty of fruits and vegetables. Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley, and quinoa. Lean protein such as fish, skinless chicken, egg whites, and beans.


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