Hepatitis B is a liver infection that is quite serious and is caused by HBV or hepatitis virus. Hepatitis B can become chronic, lasting over six months. When it is chronic, the risk of liver failure, cirrhosis, or liver cancer is usually high.
In adults, full recovery is possible even when it is severe. When kids get the infection, the likelihood of it becoming chronic is high. There is a vaccine that can help with prevention. However, a cure is yet to be found.
Symptoms can be either severe or mild. They appear from 1-4 months after infection. There are cases where symptoms are noticed two weeks after infection. However, in some people, especially children, there are no symptoms.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Dark urine
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
Causes and mode of infection
HBV causes infection. It can be passed from one person to the next through body fluids such as semen and blood. The infection cannot spread through coughing or sneezing. It can spread through:
- Sexual contact: having unprotected sex with an infected person
- Sharing infected needles
- Accidental needle sticks
- Transmission to a child from an infected mother
The body can clear hepatitis B when it’s acute, and one can recover fully in a couple of months. However, it can become chronic, especially when the body is unable to fight it. It can also last throughout a person’s life leading to other issues.
Chances of infection are increased by:
- Sharing needles
- Having same-sex intercourse between men
- Living with someone who has an HBV infection, especially when chronic
- Mother to child infection
- Traveling to regions where rates of infection are high
- Being in a career where one is exposed to human blood
Liver biopsy, liver ultrasound, and blood test can help determine immunity to hepatitis B. When you have been exposed to the virus, you need to see a doctor a soon as possible. Hepatitis B medicines include an immunoglobulin injection, and it is given around 12 hours after you have been exposed. This can protect you from falling sick. This is short-term protection. It is better to be vaccinated.
If the infection is acute, you may not be given any Hepatitis B medicines. Rest, fluids, and proper nutrition can help. When cases are severe, you may get antiviral drugs. It may also be necessary to stay in the hospital to reduce complications.
If you have chronic hepatitis B, you may need to be treated for the rest of your life. Getting hepatitis B medicines reduces the chances of developing liver disease, and you do not pass it to others.
Hepatitis B medicines include antiviral medications like entecavir, tenofovir, lamivudine, adefovir, and telbivudine. You may also get interferon injections. The substance is usually given to fight infection, especially for women who want to have babies and young people.
A liver transplant can also be recommended significantly when the liver has been damaged severely.