Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B is a transmittable liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B infection may be acute or chronic, chronic hepatitis B can increase the risk of liver cancer or liver failure. Types of Hepatitis B Hepatitis B infection may be acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis B: Acute hepatitis B occurs from the […] Read More

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Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a severe transmittable liver inflammation (swelling and reddening) caused by the hepatitis B virus. The infection may be acute or chronic. The chronic form can increase the risk of liver cancer or liver failure. Hepatitis B can also be called HBV, and Hep B, which can cause liver cirrhosis (hardening or scarring), liver cancer or even death.

Hepatitis B
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What are the types of Hepatitis B?

Types of Hepatitis B
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Hepatitis B infection may be acute or chronic.

  • Acute Hepatitis B:

The acute type occurs from the time of the first infection until six months afterward, and it rarely causes any damage to the liver.

  • Chronic Hepatitis B:

The chronic type occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in the blood for more than six months after the first infection. The chronic type can lead to serious health complications and cause severe damage to the liver. 

Causes

Causes of Hepatitis B
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  • An infection causes hepatitis B with the hepatitis B virus.
  • Hereditary
  • Mother-to-child transmission

Mode of Transmission

The infection is spread from person to person through: 

  • Blood by transfusions, cuts, wounds
  • Sharing the same needle, razors, and other equipment
  • Sexual intercourse.
  • Other body fluids such as sweat, urine, saliva, etc. 

What are the risk factors for Hepatitis B?

risk factors for Hepatitis B
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It spreads through contact with infected blood, semen, or other body fluids. Risk of infection increases if:

  • An infant is born to an infected mother
  • A person has unprotected sex with an infected partner or with multiple partners.
  • Health care workers
  • Newborn of chronic carriers
  • Sharing needles, razors, or other equipment.

Symptoms

symptoms of Hepatitis B
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The symptoms are similar to symptoms of the flu, and some people living with acute hepatitis B do not know it because symptoms may not appear. Symptoms may include:

  • Mild fever
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice

How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Hepatitis B
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A physical examination is performed to check for signs of liver damage, such as yellowing skin and pain in the abdomen. These tests can be used to diagnose or treat the infection and its complications:

How is Hepatitis B treated? 

Treatment of hepatitis B
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The treatment depends on how severe and long an individual has been infected.

The acute type does not usually need specific treatment but may require treatment to relieve the symptoms, and it often clears up on its own.  

Chronic hepatitis B can be treated with medication or a liver transplant.

  • Medications advised for chronic hepatitis B are: 
  1. Antiviral medications- They include entecavir, tenofovir, lamivudine, adefovir, etc. These drugs help in the fight against the virus and slow its ability to damage the liver.
  2. Interferon injections- These drugs are mainly used for young people diagnosed with the infection to avoid long-term treatment or on women who want to conceive within a few years. 
  • Liver transplant– This treatment option is advised in cases where the liver is damaged completely. During this treatment, the surgeon replaces the damaged liver with a healthy liver from a healthy donor. 

What are the complications of Hepatitis B?

complications of Hepatitis B
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Chronic Hepatitis B infection can lead to severe complications, such as:

  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure
  • Hepatitis D infections
  • Death if left untreated 
  • Cirrhosis

Prevention

The vaccine is typically given in three or four injections over six months. The vaccine is recommended for:

  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with end-stage kidney disease
  • Newborns
  • Anyone who has a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV
  • Children and adolescents not vaccinated at birth
  • Travelers who plan to travel to an area with a high rate of hepatitis B infection.

FAQ

What causes hepatitis B?

It is caused by an infection with the hepatitis B virus and is spread from person to person through blood, semen, needle, sexual intercourse or other body fluids.

How long does the hepatitis B virus survive outside the body?

The virus can survive outside the body for at least a week, and the virus is capable of causing infection during that time.

Is it possible to prevent hepatitis B? 

Yes. Get vaccinated to avoid the infection.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

Symptoms may include:
a) Mild fever
b) Vomiting
c) Fatigue
d) Nausea
e) Headache
f) Loss of appetite

Who should get vaccinated against hepatitis B?

The vaccination is recommended for:
a) People with chronic liver disease
b) People with end-stage kidney disease
c) Newborns
d) Anyone who has a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV
e) Children and adolescents not vaccinated at birth
f) Travelers planning to go to an area with a high hepatitis B infection rate.

How common is Hepatitis B?

Over one-third of the world’s population has been infected with the hepatitis B virus. It is estimated that there are around 350 million chronic carriers of the infection worldwide [1].

Does Hepatitis B last for a lifetime?

The studies have suggested that the vaccine remains effective for up to 20 years. A booster dose is suggested if the initial vaccine loses effectiveness [2].

Is it possible to get more than one type of Hepatitis?

Yes, there is a possibility that a person can have more than one form of hepatitis at a time.

Are Hepatitis B patients immunocompromised?

Yes, patients diagnosed with the infection are at increased risk of having an immunocompromised state.

How is the Hepatitis B vaccine produced?

The vaccine is prepared by taking a part of the virus that makes the surface proteins and putting it into yeast cells.

Will Hepatitis B stay in the body lifetime?

Acute hepatitis B lasts for a short duration, while the chronic type lasts more than six months. However, there is a possibility that it may last a lifetime, possibly leading to chronic liver cirrhosis or liver cancer [3].

References

  1. Kane M. Global strategies for the control of hepatitis B. In: Zuckerman AJ, editor. Prevention of hepatitis B. London: Royal College of Physicians; 1996. pp. 87–96(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115601/#B2)
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4246-hepatitis-b
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/symptoms-causes/syc-20366802#:~:text=Chronic%20hepatitis%20B%20infection%20lasts,as%20cirrhosis%20and%20liver%20cancer.