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Hepatitis B


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Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. The condition is usually acute (less than six months) in adults but if babies acquire Hepatitis then it can last for a long time i.e. more than six months and become chronic.


Symptoms of hepatitis B

Typical symptoms of hepatitis infection are: 

  • Jaundice- Yellowing of skin, pale eyes
  • Fever, pain in stomach
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Appetite loss, nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness, joint and muscle pain, extreme tiredness 
The signs of chronic hepatitis vary to a large extent depending on the severity of the liver damage.


Causes of hepatitis B

As said before, the causative agent is Hepatitis B virus, which can spread in several ways.

They are: 

  • Sharing of needles, personal items like razor, toothbrush, etc. with hepatitis infected patients. It can also be transmitted from tattoo needles used on hepatitis patients
  • Infants can acquire the infection from their hepatitis infected mothers at the time of delivery
  • Having unprotected sexual intercourse with hepatitis infected person
  • People who travel to hepatitis B infected countries can also get the infection


Complications of hepatitis B

Since the virus infects the liver, chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver damage, liver cirrhosis, and quite unfortunately liver cancer. 

It makes one vulnerable to kidney problems and Hepatitis D infection.


Diagnosis of hepatitis B

Diagnosis of hepatitis B begins with evaluation of the risk factors and the medical history of the patient. The disease can be confirmed only from the blood test reports. Blood test is mandatory as it is specific to hepatitis B surface antigen.

An antigen-antibody blood test, known as anti-HBs (surface) is also performed.

Anti-HBc (core) test helps to diagnose chronic infections.

Since the virus affects your liver, your doctor would advise liver function tests rule out liver complications.

Liver biopsy might also be conducted, especially when cancer is suspected. It helps to determine the extent of spread.


What is the treatment for hepatitis B?

There’s no specific treatment for hepatitis B. If it’s an acute condition, then your doctor would not prescribe any medicines. However, care would be taken that the nutritional balance in your body is adequately maintained. IV drip is usually given for this purpose.

The treatment basically involves reducing the symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, etc. which further helps in quick recovery. You need to take rest for several days.

Secondly, chronic cases of hepatitis B are resolved with antiviral drugs and interferon. This is done to prevent the virus from damaging the liver.

However, if your liver has been plagued severely, then your doctor should perform liver treatments like liver transplant.

The infection goes on its own nonetheless your doctor will schedule appointments to check reduction in viral load.


Can hepatitis B be prevented?

Hepatitis B can be prevented with hepatitis B vaccine, which is a must for new born babies. It can also be given to children, adults and older age group people. Consult your doctor and make sure you are vaccinated.

Viral transmission can be prevented when you educate yourself properly about the infection. In this perspective, use condoms while having sex and stop sharing needles and personal items with hepatitis patients.

Avoid eating too much street food at unhygienic places, unfiltered drinking water, etc. 

Today, screening is done for hepatitis B infection, which is indeed a great way to prevent the disease.  

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Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: March 14, 2014

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