Hepatitis B - Health Center
By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST
Hepatitis B: Basic Overview
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection which is caused due to the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). This infection often proves to be chronic, making it last for more than six months. Suffering from a chronic infection increases the chance of the person to suffer from liver failure, liver cancer or liver cirrhosis. These conditions can cause a permanent damage to the liver.
Most patients suffering from Hepatitis B can recover fully given a complete treatment. Infants and children are more likely to develop Hepatitis B infection as compared to adults. Vaccinations can help a person to prevent Hepatitis B infection since there is no cure for the disease.
Causes of Hepatitis B:
Hepatitis B infections are caused due to the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). This virus can pass from one person to the other via blood, semen or through other body fluids. Some of the most common ways for the transmission of the disease are as follows:
- Sexual Contact: A person can become infected from HBV if he or she indulges in unprotected sex with someone who is already infected. Blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions are highly contagious sources for infection.
- Sharing of Needles: HBV can be transmitted via needles and syringes which have been contaminated with the infected blood. Sharing syringes and needles via IV drug use can increase the chances of contracting the virus.
- Mother to Child: Pregnant women who are suffering from HBV can pass the virus to the unborn child during childbirth. The newborn babies can be vaccinated in order to avoid the infections in all the cases.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B:
The signs and symptoms of the disease can range from mild to severe depending upon the stage and the type of the disease. Some of the major signs are as follows:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Dark urine
- Pain in the joints
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and increased fatigue
- Yellowing of the skin and the white of the eyes
It is recommended to see a doctor if you have been exposed to the Hepatitis B Virus recently. Taking preventive measures and vaccines can help to reduce the chances of the infections greatly.
Tests and Diagnosis of Hepatitis B:
Blood Tests are the most probable tests in order to diagnose Hepatitis B infections. Blood tests can determine the presence of the virus in the blood stream. The doctors also remove a small sample of the liver in order to determine the extent of the liver damage. During the biopsy, the doctor inserts a needle into the liver in order to remove a sample of the organ.
Screening of a patient is done before testing him for the presence of the virus. The following patients are screened for the presence of the virus:
- People suffering from HIV or Hepatitis C
- People indulging in drug abuse
- People suffering from Kidney Dialysis
- Pregnant women
- People having a liver enzyme test showing abnormal results
- People living with someone suffering from Hepatitis B
- People who have indulged in sexual intercourse with a person suffering from Hepatitis B.
Types of Hepatitis B Infections:
The Hepatitis B Infections can either be short lived (acute) or could be long lasting (Chronic).
- Acute Infection: The acute or short lived infections last for less than six months. The immune system of the body can clear the infections on its own and the recovery can be completed within a period of few months. People who acquire the Hepatitis B infection as adults usually suffer from acute infections.
- Chronic Infection: Chronic Infection lasts for six months or more. In this case, the immune system cannot fight off the infection on its own. This infection may last for a lifetime and can lead to serious diseases such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Children and newborns are at a higher risk of suffering from Chronic infections as compared to adults. Chronic infections can go undetected for a long period of time and can develop into serious ailments.
Treatment and Drugs for Hepatitis B:
Seeking immediate medical attention is the best way to treat Hepatitis B. Receiving an injection of Hepatitis B Immune Globulin within the first 12 hours of the initial contamination can protect the patient from developing Hepatitis B.
The following are the major treatment options against the disease:
For Acute Hepatitis: In case a person is suffering is suffering from acute Hepatitis, no treatment is needed for the disease. The disease can cure on its own with accurate nutrition as well as fluid intake.
For Chronic Hepatitis: In case a person is suffering from Chronic Hepatitis, the treatment options are as follows:
- Antiviral Medications: These medications include drugs such as Lamivudine, Adefovir, Telbivudine and Entecavir in order to fight against the virus and slow down the ability of the virus to cause damage to the liver.
- Interferon alfa-2b: A synthetic version of the substance which is used to help the body to fight the infections caused by Hepatitis B. This drug is given via an injection and its side effects may include depression, difficulty in breathing as well as tightness of the chest.
- Liver Transplant: In some of the severe cases, the liver is damaged beyond repair and the only plausible treatment option is to go in for a liver transplant. In this, the doctor removes the damaged organ and then replaces it with a healthy one. Most donor organs come from deceased donors.