Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B infection can become chronic for some individuals, hence lasting for more than 6 months. When one has chronic hepatitis B, he/she becomes prone to the risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer, or liver cirrhosis.
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver which occurs commonly as a result of a viral infection. However, there are other possible causes of hepatitis. The liver being a vital organ tasked with processing nutrients, filtering the blood, and fighting infections among other roles, its damage affects its functions greatly.
Note that adults with hepatitis B recover fully, even if their signs and symptoms are severe. However, a group of people who are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B are infants and children.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis B
During Hepatitis B diagnosis, the doctor examines the patient to look for signs of liver damage such as yellowing skin as well as pain in the abdomen. The tests that can help diagnose hepatitis B include:
- Blood tests: This test detects signs of the hepatitis B virus and can tell whether it’s acute or chronic.
- Transient elastography: This is a type of ultrasound that transmits vibrations into the liver and measures the speed of their dispersal through liver tissue to estimate stiffness.
- Liver biopsy: A liver biopsy is a technique used for diagnosing abnormal liver conditions. It is an outpatient procedure that involves obtaining a piece of liver tissue for analysis. The obtained liver tissue allows your doctor to see if the liver is healthy or to better understand the extent of liver damage.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
In most cases, the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B have variations ranging from mild to severe. These include:
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the patient’s skin and the whites of his/her eyes
Causes of Hepatitis B
The virus that causes hepatitis B is passed from person to person through blood, semen, or other body fluids. The common ways the virus (HBV) can spread include:
- Sexual contact
- Sharing of needles
- Accidental needle sticks
- Mother to child. Pregnant mothers who are infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus to babies during childbirth. However, vaccination of the newborn can prevent infection.
Risk Factors of Hepatitis B
Some of the common risk factors of hepatitis B infection include:
- Having unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Sharing of needles during
- An infant born to an infected mother
- Working in an environment that exposes an individual to human blood
- Traveling to regions with a high infection rate
Treatment of Hepatitis B
More often doctors recommend that one should get the hepatitis B vaccine because the treatment for hepatitis B only provides short-time protection.
During the treatment, doctors test to determine if the patient’s hepatitis B is acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis B is short-lived and will go away on its own. That means one may not need treatment. In this case, proper nutrition, rest, and plenty of fluids are the best recommendations. The patient should observe these recommendations as his/her body fights the infection.
Patients diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B infection need treatment. The recommended treatment helps reduce the risks of liver disease and prevents an individual from passing the infection to others. Therefore, treatment for hepatitis B includes:
- Interferon injection: This is mainly used for young people with hepatitis B who wish to avoid long-term treatment or women who anticipate getting pregnant within a few years, after completing a finite course of therapy.
- Liver transplant: It is highly recommended that if an individual’s liver has been severely damaged as a result of Hepatitis B, a transplant remains the appropriate option.
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