Hepatitis B, a liver infection, caused by the hepatitis B virus is one of the most serious types of viral hepatitis. Characterized by vomiting, yellowing of eyes, dark urine and abdominal pain, people with low immunity, pregnant women, those suffering from any illness, children and old people are at an increased risk. According to WHO statistics, around 600000 people die every year due to the acute or chronic consequences of hepatitis B and more than two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) on hepatitis answered.
Early diagnosis of the disease is the key to get treated. However, if the disease is unattended, you may be at an increased risk of chronic liver disease or might be at a high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. To know in detail about hepatitis B and tips to prevent the disease, here’s what you should know.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that is transmitted from an infected person to other through direct blood-to-blood contact, semen or vaginal fluid. Although the mode of transmission is same as that of HIV virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus is 100 times more infectious and can survive outside the body for around a week. During this time, the virus can infect a person (who is not protected with the virus). Here is what you should know about the liver.
The common modes of transmission are -
The hepatitis B virus is not transmitted through contaminated food or water. The incubation period of the hepatitis B virus (the chances of spreading the infection to another person after infecting a person) is 90 days. However, in some cases the virus might remain latent from 30 to 180 days. The virus is usually detected around 30 to 60 days after infection and mat remain dormant for variable periods of time depending upon the immunity.
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- Perinatal (from mother to baby at birth)
- Early childhood infections (infection through close interpersonal contact with infected household contacts)
- Unsafe injection practices
- Unsafe blood transfusions
- Unprotected sexual contact
- Occupational hazards (healthcare workers)
The severity of the infection is dependent upon the age of the person, i,e, young children are more susceptible to be infected with the virus and thus develop chronic infections. Here are 6 challenges to hepatitis prevention in India.
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- Around 25% of adults who were infected with the virus during childhood die from hepatitis B-related liver cancer or cirrhosis.
- Almost 90% of healthy adults infected with the virus recover from the disease within six months.
Most people do not experience any symptoms during the acute infection phase. However, some people have acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks. These include -
In some cases, the hepatitis B virus can cause chronic liver infection which if left untreated might develop into cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
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- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Extreme fatigue
- Abdominal pain
If you experience any of the above symptoms your doctor will recommend few blood tests to diagnose the condition. These include -
In addition to this, you may also be required to undergo testing of Hepatitis B surface antigen and Hepatitis B core antigen. You may also like to read about Bblood tests: Understanding the different kinds.
Hepatitis B surface antigen test – This test is used to determine whether the person has recovered from hepatitis infection or has undergone vaccination for hepatitis B. If the tst is positive, it means that the virus is no longer present in the person’s blood and also signifies that the person is immune to hepatitis B infection in the future.
Hepatitis B core antigen test – It is usually used to determine whether a person has been infected with the virus in the past or had a recent infection. A positive test combined with positive results for the hepatitis B surface antigen, indicates a chronic infection.
Here’s additional information on diagnosis of hepatitis.
Although there is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B, with proper care and eating right one can relieve its symptoms. It is important to maintain adequate nutritional balance and replenish the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea.
Whereas for people suffering from chronic hepatitis B, use of interferon and antiviral drugs are recommended. In case of severe liver disease or liver cirrhosis caused due to hepatitis, liver transplants might come to the rescue. Here are all our queries about liver transplants answered!
Apart from medications, here are some home remedies that will help in faster recovery from jaundice.
Here is detailed information about 7 home remedies to relieve the symptoms of jaundice or hepatitis B.
- Amla and lemon
- Radish leaf juice
- Practise safe sex and use barrier contraceptives like condoms always.
- Refrain from sharing personal items like razors, needles etc.
- Beware while getting a tattoo or body piercing. The equipment being used may have someone else’s blood on it.
- Do not donate blood if you are infected.
The content has been verified by
Dr. Vijay D'Silva
Medical Affairs & Critical Care, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.