What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is the condition that a person suffers from when there is swelling of the liver because of the immune responses by the body when infected by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It’s not the virus itself that causes the sickness but rather the way the body reacts to the virus and causes injury to the liver cells. Aside from HBV, there is also Hepatitis A and Hepatitis C viruses.
Hepatitis B may start as an acute infection but can progress into chronic Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B incidents are highest among people aged 25 to 44 years in the US. It is a disease that affects people worldwide with 15 to 20% of adults from Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa suffering from chronic Hepatitis B. With no solid reasons of evidences, Hepatitis B affects more of the male population than the women’s. 95% of adults recover from acute Hepatitis B and do not progress to chronic Hepatitis B.
There are two types of Hepatitis B, acute and chronic. Acute or short-term Hepatitis is the first infection with the virus and may last up to 6 months. If the acute Hepatitis B is cured during this period, then everything should be good. But when acute Hepatitis B lasts more than 6 months, then the individual may already be suffering from chronic Hepatitis B. This is a long-term infection and may cause really serious damage to the liver and may even lead to fibrosis or cirrhosis. Unfortunately, young children and babies who get HBV suffer from chronic Hepatitis B immediately.
Hepatitis B may or may not manifest with the following symptoms:
- Flu-like symptoms such as mild fever, loss of appetite, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pains
- Bowel problems such as Diarrhea or constipation
- Skin itching or rashes
- Pain in upper right abdomen
- Dark urine, pale stool
How does one get Hepatitis B?
- Exchange of body fluids (blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal discharge): Through sharing of food utensils, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or razors and unprotected sex
- Vertical transmission: A newborn baby gets the virus from an infected mother
- Body piercing and tattoos: When unsterilized needles are used in these procedures and HBV-infected blood enters a person’s skin
- Exposure to blood products or instruments: Health care workers may be at risk when handling people already infected with Hepatitis B especially when blood gets into their open body surfaces such as their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Tests and Diagnosis of Hepatitis B
A doctor may perform a series of blood tests to diagnose if an individual has Hepatitis B. The type of Hepatitis B, the level of liver, transaminases, and cholestatic enzymes, and the liver’s protein levels can be determined in these blood tests. Liver biopsy is the most reliable test that can really show how much damage the liver is already suffering from. The patient would also need to go through a complete physical check up and give an accurate medical, work, and sexual activity history to further complete the diagnosis of Hepatitis B.
How to Prevent and Treat Hepatitis B
Prevention has always been proven to be better than cure. So, if you really don’t want to expose yourself to the Hepatitis B Virus, give up unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and unprotected sex. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Get Hepatitis B vaccine or the hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) especially if you already suspect exposure to HBV. Keep people around you safe by informing them of your condition.
If you are already infected with the virus, get plenty of rest and take as much fluids as you can. Follow recommendations by the doctor especially if medications are already involved for chronically ill patients. Follow up your home treatment with regular checkups and continue going through blood tests when needed.