Hepatitis B Facts, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

By Nick Gold

Hepatitis B is another liver inflammation which can provoke a wide variety of symptoms and stress in one’s life. An unhealthy lifestyle characterized by heavy alcohol consumption or drugs use can cause hepatitis B as well as by taking certain medications.

Acute hepatitis B

Hepatitis B develops in 2 stages. The first stage is called acute hepatitis B, and it can show some symptoms in the first six months after the infection, but most patients are asymptomatic. Usually, acute hepatitis B manifests itself as a mild illness, but some patients require hospitalization to clear the virus.

It is important to mention that certain people are also able to cure illness without treatments, but this can happen slowly over time. If one was cured of hepatitis B, it would never have it again.

Chronic hepatitis B

At this stage, the hepatitis B virus can stay in the body forever and continue to cause damage to the liver. Not everyone gets chronic hepatitis B. Less than 5% of adults progress to this stage.

However, approximately 90% of infants who get hepatitis B will eventually progress to chronic illness because their fragile body is not yet prepared to deal with this type of virus.

In worst cases, chronic hepatitis B can lead to serious liver damage such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.

Hepatitis B transmission methods

The hepatitis B virus is spread by:

· Having sex with an infected person

· Sharing syringes or needles which are used to inject drugs

· An infected mother can transmit the virus to her baby at birth

Certain people are at a higher risk to get infected with hepatitis B, and they should be tested regularly to prevent spreading this virus. For example, pregnant women should always get tested before delivery to avoid transmitting the disease to the baby.

Men who have sex with other men (MSM) are also at a higher risk to get infected, especially when no protection is used. Those who inject drugs in their veins are more likely to get hepatitis B as well.

People who have multiple sexual partners are more likely to get hepatitis B as well as other types of STDs. HIV-positive persons are at a higher risk too as well as those who receive chemotherapy.

Traveling to countries where hepatitis B is common increases the chances of getting infected. Frequent travelers should get vaccinated to prevent being contaminated and bringing the virus back to their native countries.

Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted by:

· Breastfeeding

· Contaminated water or drinks

· Shaking hands or kissing an infected person

· Coughing or sneezing

· Holding hands with someone who has hepatitis B

Hepatitis B symptoms and treatment

As mentioned earlier, hepatitis B doesn’t usually show symptoms, but when they do occur, these can range from fever, fatigue, and nausea to joint pain, dark urine, grey stools and even yellow eyes (jaundice).

Testing for hepatitis B should be done by a healthcare provider by using blood samples. If the result is positive, the doctors might recommend rest, proper nutrition, plenty of fluids, and certain medications to stop liver damage and prevent this disease from getting even more serious. Hep B can be treated with several antiviral medications — including entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread),lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera) and telbivudine (Tyzeka) — can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver

People who are diagnosed with hepatitis B should also be evaluated regularly (especially those who progress at a chronic stage) to monitor their liver problems. Treatments can also be administered to help one cope with the symptoms easier.

Preventing hepatitis B

Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B can be prevented by getting vaccinated. To ensure long-term protection, three shots are administered over 6 months. However, people should speak with their healthcare provider before getting the vaccine as certain medical conditions (such as diabetes) can interfere with the vaccine.

Hepatitis B summarized

· Hepatitis B is caused by a virus which provokes inflammation in the liver

· This disease has two stages – the acute stage which can last for up to six months and the chronic stage which can last for a lifetime

· Chronic stage hepatitis B happens very rarely and mostly in infants

· The symptoms of hepatitis B are nausea, vomiting, dark urine, painful joints, loss of appetite and fatigue. Most people infected with this virus are asymptomatic

· Hepatitis B can be transmitted through sexual contact as well as by sharing syringes and needles to inject drugs

· Mothers can also transmit the hepatitis B virus to their babies at birth and not by breastfeeding

· Testing for hepatitis B can be done by drawing a blood sample

· The doctor might recommend rest, adequate nutrition and certain medications as treatment for hepatitis B

· Patients who develop chronic hepatitis B should be closely monitored and evaluated to prevent additional damage to the liver which can potentially threaten their lives

· One can prevent getting the hepatitis B virus by getting a vaccine