Hepatitis B is considered an infection of the liver. A virus causes this infection. Hepatitis is known as the inflammation of the liver. For some people, hepatitis B is not severe and lasts a short time. If not properly treated, it can become chronic. Hepatitis B can cause liver failure, scarring of the organ, and it can be fatal or even life-threatening.
It is a contagious disease that is spread when people come in contact with open sores, blood, or body fluids of an individual who has the hepatitis B virus; therefore, an HBsAg test is essential to undergo after contacting such people.
Hepatitis B can be a serious disease, but if you get it as an adult, it will not last a long time. Your body tries to fight it off within a couple of months, and that means you will not get it again. However, if you get this disease by birth, it is unlikely to disappear.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B (short-term) does not cause symptoms. For example, it is not common for children younger than five to develop symptoms if they are infected. However, some symptoms may include:
- Belly pain
- Light-coloured stools
- Joint pain
- Fatigue that lasts for weeks or even months
- Stomach problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, or vomiting
- Jaundice (your whites of the eyes or skin turn yellow or the pee turns orange or brown)
It is possible that these symptoms do not show up until one to six months after catching the virus. It is also possible that you do not feel anything. About a third of people who get hepatitis B do not feel anything. They come to know about it only through a blood test.
What are the Causes of Hepatitis B?
This virus can spread from person to person in several ways. You can get or spread this virus even if you do not feel sick. The common ways to spread hepatitis B virus are:
Mother to child
A pregnant woman who is experiencing hepatitis B can pass this disease to their babies during childbirth. However, there is a vaccine to prevent babies from getting this infection.
Unprotected Sexual Activity
You can get this infection if your partner is experiencing this disease. You can get it through your partner’s semen, blood, or secretions.
The virus of hepatitis B can spread easily through syringes and needles contaminated with infected blood.
Accidental Needle Sticks
Anyone and especially healthcare workers can get this virus by coming in contact with human blood.
Hepatitis B infection does not spread through water, food, coughing, shared utensils, or through touch.
How Common is This Infection?
The number of people getting this disease is decreasing; according to the CDC, numbers have dropped from 200,000 per year in the 1980s to 20,000 in 2016. People between 20 to 49 are mostly to get it. However, 90% of infants and almost 50% of children between the ages of 1-5 can become chronically infected. In adults, 95% will recover permanently and will not get chronic infection for the second time.
What is HBV-HIV Coinfection?
About 2.7 million people living with HBV infection are also infected with HIV. In the contrast, the global HBV prevalence in HIV-infected persons is 7.4%. WHO has recommended treatment for every individual diagnosed with HIV infection. Tenofovir is first-line therapy for HIV infection and is also active against HBV.
How to Diagnose Hepatitis B Infection?
If your doctor thinks you have gotten this infection, he will recommend a complete physical examination. They can test your blood to check whether your liver is inflamed or not? If you have high levels of liver enzymes or hepatitis B symptoms, then you will be tested for:
HBsAg: an antigen is a protein on the hepatitis virus. Immune cells make antibodies which are also known as proteins. They show up in the blood between one and ten weeks after exposure. If you recover completely, they go away after four to six months. If they remain after six months, then maybe your condition is chronic.
Anti-HBs: hepatitis B surface antibodies show up after HBsAg disappears. They are helpful in making you immune to hepatitis B for the rest of your life.
If hepatitis becomes chronic, then your doctor may take a tissue sample from the liver, known as a biopsy.
What are the Complications Associated with Hepatitis B?
Many people with chronic hepatitis do not feel sick or even know they have developed it unless it is in its late stages. Hepatitis B infection can lead to:
- Kidney Disease: some studies have found that people with hepatitis may be more likely to have several kidney diseases.
- Liver Cancer: if you have developed a chronic hepatitis B infection, your doctor may recommend a complete examination, if there are symptoms of liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis: also known as scarring of the liver. This infection can make it harder for your liver to do its work.
Hepatitis B infection can be chronic; therefore, it is essential to undergo a test to stop severe medical complications. In addition, you need to avoid such things that cause this infection.