A while ago I presented an overview of Hepatitis A; today I will present an overview of Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B Virus, it is called HBV for short. The condition is characterized by inflammation of the liver. The other types of Hepatitis include A, C, and D
What causes Hepatitis B?
The Hepatitis B virus lives and multiplies in the blood, vaginal fluids, semen, and other bodily fluids.
Common Risk factors for getting the Hepatitis B Virus include:
Contact with blood in health care facilities
Direct contact with blood from an infected person
Touching an open wound of an infected person
Being stuck with a needle from an infected person
Having acupuncture done with infected instruments
Having a tattoo done with infected instruments
Having unsafe sex with an infected person
An infant born of a woman with Hepatitis B can also get it
Sharing needles in drug use
Sharing razors with an infected person
Sharing toothbrushes with an infected person
Sharing nail clippers with an infected person
Other risk factors include:
Being infected by HIV
Being on hemodialysis
Having several sex partners
Having man to man sex
An acute infection of Hepatitis B can last from 3 to 6 months. Conversely, a chronic infection of Hepatitis B stays in the body. Most of the damage done by Hepatitis B is due to the body’s reaction to the infection. As the body’s immune system discovers the infection, it releases special cells to fight it; though, fighting off the infection can cause inflammation of the liver.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Many people that have chronic Hepatitis B sometimes don’t have any symptoms at all. Being without symptoms, many people may not even know they have the virus; although they can spread the virus to other people.
The symptoms of Hepatitis B may not be noticed until a few months after being infected with the virus.
Early symptoms of Hepatitis B include:
Loss of appetite
Low grade fever
Aching in the joints
Nausea and vomiting
Jaundice of the skin and in the whites of the eyes (yellow coloring)
Dark urine due to jaundice
Slow liver damage can occur with chronic Hepatitis B, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
How is Hepatitis B diagnosed and treated?
The following tests will be done to discover and monitor liver damage caused by the Hepatitis B Virus:
Liver function tests
The following tests will be done to diagnose Hepatitis B:
Anti-HBc (Antibody to Hepatitis B Core Antigen) – If this test is positive, it means you have a new infection or you have been infected in the past with the Hepatitis B Virus.
HBsAg (Hepatitis B Surface Antigen) – If this test is positive, you are infected.
HEeAg (Hepatitis E Surface Antigen) – If this test is positive you are contagious to others.
Acute Hepatitis B only requires careful liver function testing and monitoring. The patient should have plenty of bed rest, drink plenty of fluids, and eat a healthy diet. A person with acute Hepatitis B may be at risk with liver failure; in case of liver failure, a liver transplant might be necessary for survival.
Patients with chronic Hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral medications. Hepatitis B can’t really be treated, but these medications will help to decrease the infection. In the last stage of chronic Hepatitis B the patient may go into liver failure. A liver transplant will be the only option for survival if that should happen.
A patient suffering from acute or chronic Hepatitis B should avoid alcohol, and should check with his or her attending physician prior to taking any herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications. It is not wise to even take an aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) or even Ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) without consulting with a medical professional.