Hepatitis B is a liver disease that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is not often a serious condition and may go away with time. It is estimated that over 1.2 million people in the U.S have the virus. There are two types: acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis.
Types of Hepatitis B
Acute Hepatitis: This version of the hepatitis B virus is mild and often goes away on its own. It only persists for less than four months. While there can be serious complications from this virus, it is unlikely.
Chronic Hepatitis: Although it is true that if you have acute hepatitis you may lack symptoms and complications, the same does not go for chronic hepatitis. In patients with chronic hepatitis, the virus stays in their bodies for over six months and causes serious complications and further illnesses. It may still go away on its own, but treatment for the symptoms is still needed.
Causes of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can only be transmitted through fluids like spit, semen, and blood. It is contagious but cannot be transferred from host to host airborne. Instead, some common causes of hepatitis B are:
- Sharing needles
- Stepping on used and infected needles
- From mother to baby in the womb
- Sexual activity
- Blood and open wounds
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
The symptoms are unique because there often aren’t many. Children and babies with this virus are more likely to show symptoms and develop further complications. Adults, however, have about a 95% success rate with beating it and feeling symptomless. In patients that do display symptoms, common ones are:
- Dark urine colors
- Yellowing around the eyes
- Frequent stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Uncomfortable nausea
How to Diagnose Hepatitis B
If any of the symptoms listed above are noted, it is important to go to a doctor and get tested. The first step in getting a proper diagnosis is to get a physical exam. The doctor will ask you questions about your health and take a look at the physical symptoms. If the healthcare professional suspects hepatitis B, they will recommend further testing.
Further testing typically includes a combination of an HB surface antigen test, an HB surface antibody test, and an MRI or CAT scan to look at the condition of your liver. The surface antigen and antibody tests are blood tests that detect the hepatitis B virus levels. These tests are typically taken more than once over the course of months, as the virus can stay inactive in your blood up to six months after recovery.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms, the doctor may most likely offer an MRI or CAT scan to take a look at your liver and the surrounding organs for any scarring or damage.
Treatment for Hepatitis B
There is no current cure for the hepatitis B virus or liver disease. While this may sound frightening, most cases are resolved independently with limited medication and a few lifestyle changes. Some lifestyle changes that can treat hepatitis B symptoms are:
- Consuming liver/immune system strengthening supplements
- Decreasing alcohol consumption
- Not taking ibuprofen
How to Prevent Hepatitis B
This ailment is not always preventable, but thankfully it is rarely ever a serious condition. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting a vaccine that protects from the virus. The vaccine is available for infants and adults alike. There are other precautions to take that can keep you from catching this virus, which include:
- Practicing safe sex with condoms
- Covering and cleaning open wounds immediately
- Pregnant women getting tested for hepatitis B
- Not sharing needles
- Can hepatitis B damage the liver? Although unlikely, hepatitis B can damage the liver in severe cases and cause conditions like liver failure, liver cancer, and extreme scarring.
- Who should get tested for hepatitis B? Pregnant women, children with symptoms, and non-vaccinated individuals should consider doing so.
- Are there any treatments for people with chronic hepatitis B? Yes! Doctors can prescribe medication for people with chronic hepatitis B; however, the medications mainly treat the symptoms. These medications include interferon alfa, adefovir dipivoxil, and telbivudine.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!