Hepatitis B- All you need to know about it

Hepatitis B is a grave liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B infection becomes chronic, meaning it lasts more than six months for some people. Having chronic hepatitis B upsurges your risk of developing liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and even liver failure. Most adults with hepatitis B recover fully, even if their signs and indications are severe. New-born and children are more likely to develop a chronic hepatitis B infection. A vaccine can stop hepatitis B, but there’s no cure if you have the disorder. Taking certain precautions can help prevent spreading the virus to others if you’re infected.

What are the Symptoms?

Warning signs and indications of hepatitis B range from mild to severe. They usually appear about one to four months after you’ve been infected, even if you could see them as early as two weeks post-infection. Many infected individuals, usually young children, may not have any symptoms.

Hepatitis B signs and indications may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Yellowish discoloration of skin and your eyes 

What are the Causes?

Hepatitis B virus causes this infection. The virus is passed from individual to individual through blood, semen or other body fluids. It does not transfer by sneezing or coughing.

Common ways that HBV can spread are:

Sexual contact:  People may get hepatitis B if you have unprotected sex with someone who is infected. The virus can pass to you if the person’s blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions attain your body.

Sharing of needles: Infection easily spreads through needles and syringes polluted with infected blood. Sharing IV medicine or drugs sets you at high risk of hepatitis B.

Accidental needle stick injury: This is a worry for health care staff and anyone else who comes in contact with human blood.

Mother to child: Pregnant females infected with HBV can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth. But the new-born can be inoculated to avoid getting infected in almost all cases. Speak to your clinician about being tested for hepatitis B if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

What’s the Diagnosis?

Your doctor will inspect you and look for signs of liver damage, such as yellowing skin or belly pain. Tests that can help analyse hepatitis B or its complications are:

Blood tests: This test 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 whether you are immune to the state.

Liver ultrasound: An ultrasound known as transient elastography can show the amount of liver impairment.

Liver biopsy: Your surgeon might remove a small sample of your liver for testing to check for liver damage.

What is the Treatment?

Treatment to stop 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, call your doctor directly. 

Treatment for acute hepatitis B infection

If your clinician controls your hepatitis B infection when acute then you may not need treatment. In its place, your doctor might recommend rest, proper nutrition and plenty of fluids while your body fights the infection. Antiviral drugs or a hospital stay is required to prevent complications in severe cases.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B infection

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

Antiviral tablets- It can help fight the virus and slow its ability to hurt your liver. These drugs are taken by mouth. Talk to your clinician about which medicine might be right for you.

Interferon shots- It’s used mainly for young persons with hepatitis B who wish to avoid long-term treatment or females who might want to get pregnant within a few years, after completing a finite course of therapy. This should be avoided during pregnancy. 

Liver transplant- If your liver has been severely injured, a liver transplant may be a choice. 

What are the precautions to avoid HBV?

Further ways to reduce your risk of HBV include:

Identify the HBV status of any sexual partner- Don’t involve in unprotected sex unless you’re absolutely certain your partner isn’t infected with HBV or any other sexually transmitted infection.

Practice a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex if you don’t know the health status of your partner.

Don’t use banned drugs- If you use prohibited medicines, get help to stop. Use a sterile needle each time you use IV medications. Avoid sharing needles.

Be careful about body piercing and tattooing- Look for a decent shop if you get a piercing or tattoo. Ask about how the kit is cleaned. Validate that employees use sterile needles. 

Enquire about the hepatitis B vaccine before you travel- If you’re traveling to a region where hepatitis B is common, ask your clinician about the hepatitis B vaccine in advance.