Hepatitis B, previously known as "serum hepatitis", is an infectious disease with two possible phases; acute and chronic. The virus usually attacks the liver and it can cause liver failure or even cancer. Treatment for Hepatitis B is readily available and there are also ways of preventing yourself from getting this infection. The disease does not last a long time as your body fights it off within a few months, and you become immune. That means you can't get it again although if it is not well treated, it can be fatal.
Chronic Hepatitis B is a condition where the infection persists for more than 6 months. When the infection gets to this stage, the patient may never recover completely. In most cases, infected adults can be treated until they are healed. A very small number of infected adults develop to chronic infection. It is very easy for children to reach the chronic phase and this is fatal.
What are the causes of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It can be transmitted through body fluids such as semen, blood and vaginal fluids. A newborn can also get the infection from the mother during delivery.
A large percentage of people who have Chronic Hepatitis B are chronic carriers. Though they have the virus and can infect other people, they do not develop signs and symptoms of the infection. The other percentage develops active Hepatitis, which can be fatal.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Most people infected with the virus do not exhibit symptoms and may never know that they are infected. Symptoms are more noticeable in adults than in children. The initial symptoms of Hepatitis B are usually the same as those of the flu.
Common symptoms of Hepatitis B include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain over where the liver is located
- Dark colored urine
- Pale-colored stools
Hepatitis B symptoms in men and women are the same. The symptoms manifest themselves in a similar way to both genders.
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Transmission of Hepatitis B
The Hepatitis B virus is transmitted when blood, semen, or other body fluid that has the Hepatitis B virus gains entry into the body of a person who is not suffering from the condition. People can get the virus into their bodies through several ways including:
- A child can get infected at birth
- Having sex with a person with the infection
- Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug preparation apparatus
- Sharing personal items like blades, toothbrushes with an infected individual
- Getting into direct contact with the blood or open wounds of an individual with the infection.
Chronic Hepatitis B infection
The extent of the damage on the liver is dependent on the number of replicating virus in the liver and blood. Regularly monitoring the HBV DNA in the blood lets your physician know the rate at which the virus is replicating. The treatments now in use are classified as antiviral drugs because they work by stopping the virus from multiplying.
- The best therapy known for chronic Hepatitis B are antiviral agents. However, they don’t work in some people with the infection.
- Antiviral therapy is meant for people whose infection is most likely to progress to active hepatitis or cirrhosis.
- Decisions to start medications for treatment of Hepatitis B are made by the patient and physician, usually in conjunction with a Gastroenterology, hematologist, or an expert in infectious diseases.
- The results of liver function tests, HBV DNA tests, and, frequently, liver biopsies after an entire history and physical tests are what determines the decision to start treatment. Treatment should start when results of blood tests indicate that the functions of the liver are deteriorating and the amount of multiplying HBV is increasing.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis B
Diagnosis of Hepatitis B infection is done through testing the blood. These tests can detect antigens, antibodies against the virus, and viral DNA. These tests for HBV are often done when routine blood work shows abnormal liver function tests or in patients who are at an increased risk for exposure.
Blood electrolytes may also be checked to make sure that the blood chemistry of the patient is in balance. Other tests may be carried out to ensure that there are no other medical conditions. An individual who has been diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis B should visit their healthcare practitioner regularly. Blood tests are done to help determine how active the infection is and whether the liver has been damaged.
Other assessments for chronic HBV include:
- CT scan or ultrasound
- Liver biopsy
These tests can be carried out to find out if there could be other underlying causes of the symptoms and to be sure before starting the treatment.
Treatment of Hepatitis B
Once you think you have contracted the Hepatitis B infection, make sure to visit a doctor within 2 weeks so as they can give you a vaccine and a shot of Hepatitis B immune globulin. This vaccine helps to boost your immunity and fight the infection.
Home remedies for Hepatitis B
Self-care aims to offer relief to the infected person and prevent the disease from worsening.
- Take a lot of fluids to avoid dehydration. Soup, sports drinks, and fruit juices are ideal since they are loaded with calories.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks until your healthcare practitioner recommends it is safe to drink. Sufferers of chronic HBV should not take alcohol at all.
- Ensure that your diet provides sufficient nutrition.
- Avoid persistent, vigorous exercise until your health starts improving.
- Contact your physician if the condition becomes worse or new symptoms emerge.
- Do not engage in activities that may spread the infection to others such as sex and sharing needles among others.
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What are the medications for Hepatitis B?
The antiviral medications below are used for the management of chronic Hepatitis B. They weaken the capability of the virus to multiply in the body, giving the liver an opportunity for recovery. These drugs are not a cure for Hepatitis B, but they do lessen the harm caused by the infection. Although these medications are the same in certain ways, they are different in other crucial ways.
- Pegylated interferon alfa-2b
The drug can be used on its own or combined with other prescriptions.
- Pegylated interferon will slow down the multiplication of the virus and will enhance the immunity of the body to combat the infection.
- Nucleoside/nucleotide analogs (NAs)
These compounds imitate normal building blocks for DNA. When the virus tries to use the analogs, it cannot manage to create new viral particles.
- NAs reduce the amount of virus in the body. Between 20% and 90% of patients may have levels reduced that they become almost untraceable.
Hepatitis B cannot be treated through surgery. However, if the liver starts failing because of damage, the physician may recommend a liver transplant.
Treatment for Hepatitis B should be started as soon as the diagnosis is done to avoid further complications.
Prevention of Hepatitis B
Many people could be asking, can Hepatitis B be cured? Yes it can but prevention is better than cure. That is why it is always advisable to always take the protective measure against the Hepatitis B infection. Below are several ways you can protect yourself from contracting Hepatitis B;
- Get the Hepatitis B vaccine
- Avoid having multiple sexual partners
- Always use a condom if you cannot abstain from sex
- Wear gloves when you clean up after others, especially if you have to touch bandages, tampons, and linens.
- Cover all open cuts or wounds.
- Don’t share razors, toothbrushes, nail care tools, or pierced earrings with anyone.
- Don’t share chewing gum or pre-chew food for a baby
This video will educate you more on the symptoms, causes and treatment of Hepatitis B
This article does not intend to replace the services offered by a physician, nor does it institute a doctor-patient relationship. The information here is general information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. A reader should not use the information on this article for diagnosing or treating any health or medical condition. Contact your professional healthcare provider immediately if you have or suspect you need an urgent medical attention.