What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infecting virus. This infection is caused by Hepatitis B Virus or HBV. It is transmitted from one person to another through direct contact. It can be either through blood, body fluids, or semen.

There are two forms of Hepatitis B. Both have different durations and different effects on the body. The two are:

  • Acute Hepatitis B
  • Chronic Hepatitis B

Most adults who get Hepatitis B virus have it in their body for a short period of time. After a while, they get better. This kind of virus is known as acute Hepatitis B. However, the Chronic Hepatitis B virus causes infection for a longer period. When the infection persists, the liver can become damaged. Unfortunately, babies or young children who get the virus are most likely to be prone to the chronic type.

Those who have the virus for a shorter period of time do not have to face the dreadful consequence in comparison to those who have the chronic virus. Their virus can damage the liver and potentially put them at great risk of liver cancer.

How does Hepatitis B affect the body?

As the virus infects the liver, it can cause great danger to the organ. For longer durations, the liver can be damaged severely. At times, it leads to liver cancer. In other scenarios, the liver fails. Both cases are quite severe and can lead to a person’s death.

How is Hepatitis B contracted?

Hepatitis B is caused by direct content with body fluids like blood, semen or other fluids. The main causes of the infection include:

  • Sharing syringes or needles with someone who is infected
  • Having unprotected sex with someone who has Hepatitis B Virus
  • Using any tools or items that were not sterilised: like getting a tattoo using a tool that was used earlier on an infected individual.
  • Sharing of personal use items like your toothbrush or razors.
  • A mother with the infection can pass on the virus to her child during pregnancy or child birth. Even when she breastfeeds her baby, the chances are likely the child will get the virus.

However, there is a chance that the baby can get vaccinations for protection. Women who’re thinking of getting pregnant or are pregnant should have their doctors run a few tests to find out if they are infected with the virus so all precautionary measures can be taken.

Hepatitis B cannot be caused by intimate gestures like hugging or kissing or by coughing, sneezing or sharing drinks and other edibles.

What are the Symptoms of the Virus and How is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?

One of the sad things about the virus is those who are infected have no idea they have Hepatitis B in their bodies. Since there aren’t many symptoms at the earlier stage, finding out is nearly impossible. Most of the symptoms you do have will make you feel like you have a regular flu. But sometimes, it’s not the case.

The main symptoms of the virus include:

  • Headaches
  • Mild fever
  • No desire to eat
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Belly pain
  • Having a feeling of sickness to the stomach or throwing up
  • Dark urine
  • Tan-coloured stool
  • Jaundice (skin or eyes turning yellowish). Remember, this symptom only appears when others start to go away.

The chronic type doesn’t show any symptoms at all.

Time to See Your Doctor?

If your doctor feels you are at risk of Hepatitis B, he/she might ask you to have your blood examined. A simple blood test will detect if you have the virus or not. The blood test will also be able to tell if the infection was at one time in your body and went away.

If your doctor feels that the virus may have damaged your liver, a liver biopsy may be done to find out. The expert might take a tiny sample of your liver and have it tested.

If you have been infected with the virus, make contact with your medical caretaker immediately. He/she may recommend treatment that can lower the risk of the infection, but it has to be done within 24 hours after you come in contact with Hepatitis B Virus.

  • People who Should also be Screened
  • Babies born to mother with the virus
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Drug addicts who use injections
  • Sex partners with HBV
  • People who have sex with multiple partners
  • People who have a relationship with someone who has the infection and are likely to get in contact

How can Hepatitis B be treated?

As soon as you find out you have the infection, you should immediately get in touch with your doctor and have yourself vaccinated. The process, though, should be done within 12-24 hours after becoming infected. If you receive Hepatitis B immune globulin vaccination within 12 hours, chances are the virus won’t develop.

Depending on the type of virus, the doctor recommends treatment. For acute Hepatitis B, you may not need any medication or treatment at all. The doctor may only suggest rest and taking lots of healthy fluids and nutrients to help fight the infection in the body.

For the chronic type, there are many treatments available which include both medication and surgery. It all depends on the progression of the virus and how a person responds to the treatment. The main drugs include Antiviral Medication – a combination of drugs – which can lower the risks of liver damage. The other is Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A). Mainly those youngsters who do not wish for long treatment make this choice. But, if none of the two work, a liver transplant is always an option.

Can Hepatitis B be cured?

Experts are of the opinion that there is still no cure but one can be developed. Moreover, grownups with hepatitis B can recover fully if they receive medication, treatment and proper care. Of course, the type of virus decides if recovery is likely. However, children who get HBV are most likely to develop Chronic Hepatitis B.

Vaccinations can prevent you from becoming infected, but once you have it, there is no cure for it.

Worldwide Statistics

The statistics are horrifying as they range up to 240 million people who get infected with the virus. The death toll on an annual basis is even more horrifying. Nearly 700,000 people die each year from the virus which include liver cancer, liver failure and cirrhosis.

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