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Hepatitis B is an infection in the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is spread through transmission from an infected individual to a healthy individual. The spread mostly occurs through the spread of fluids such as blood, semen, or other bodily fluids that spread when the person sneezes or coughs. This infection affects the liver; this can either become a chronic issue or an acute temporary issue.
Hepatitis B is essentially a liver infection; it affects the body. In this sense, the infected individual is then considered to be at high risk of developing further complications such as chronic liver disease. This may include liver cancer, cirrhosis, or in some cases, liver failure. This could lead to hospitalization of the infected or even death.
There are multiple signs and symptoms of liver cancer, the severity of which will depend from patient to patient, and the environment that they are in. Most people who have been infected with the Hepatitis B virus show these symptoms even in acute stages.
These symptoms include fever and fatigue; this may cause a weakness in the body due to some possible nausea and vomiting. These factors combined may lead to a loss of appetite and abdominal pain, which leads to even more weakness in the body.
However, other than these primary symptoms, patients may also notice dark urine, a clay-like stool, some trouble in bowel movement, and joint pain. Contracting jaundice is also a sign of Hepatitis B as the liver is unable to function as expected.
Although some patients noted these symptoms, many stay asymptomatic and do not show signs of infection. These people then later suffer from liver failure, cirrhosis, or even liver cancer.
The Hepatitis B Virus spreads hepatitis B; this is more commonly transmitted from mother to child during childbirth, especially in areas known to be common ground for infection and viruses. Hepatitis B also spreads through bodily fluids either in the form of blood, semen or even saliva.
This spread can occur either through sexual transmission, sharing needles, using the same tattoo needles, or even piercings. Transmission can also happen through saliva when an infected person spits or sneezes near a healthy individual.
Children are considered to be most at risk, especially when they are under the age of five. It is prevalent for the disease to be spread from an infected child to a healthy child when they are five years old.
The risk of infection leading to a chronic liver disorder is vastly reduced in adulthood and is only around 5%. However, the risk of infection leading to chronic liver disease is very high during childbirth, and in the early years, the percentage risk level is around 95% during this period.
Complications with the virus are also caused because they can survive without a host for up to 7 days.
It is recommended that people should, therefore, ensure that they maintain a safe distance and try to reduce contact through needles and bodily fluids. Sanitise regularly and safely dispose of any needles after they have been used even once.
People who get diagnosed with Hepatitis B need treatment and care for their entire lives. Nonetheless, a treatment plan does exist and is effective in most cases. The treatment is needed to prevent liver failure or liver cancer and ensure that the patient's case does not worsen over time.
Chronic Hepatitis B needs to be treated as soon as possible, and please ensure that you consult your doctor when you have been suspected to come into contact with someone who has previously tested positive for the infection. If you have contacted the bodily fluids of someone with the virus, the doctor will recommend you to get a Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Test. This will help the doctor know whether you have the virus or not, therefore they can proceed further with the treatment plan accordingly.
Many antiviral medications are available especially for a patient who has chronic Hepatitis B. These medications are taken orally, and are recommended to the patient by their doctor. The main purpose of these medications is to slow down the effects of the damage that is done to the liver because of the infection.
Other courses of treatment include Interferon injections. These are man made injections that are designed to mimic the substance in the body that is used to fight infections. This treatment plan is preferred for most younger people who wish to avoid a lifelong treatment plan for the infection, or for women who wish to eventually get pregnant and go through childbirth.
However, this injection is not meant to be used during pregnancy and the side effects may range from depression to even trouble breathing and nausea.
The third course of treatment is a liver transplant. Liver transplants are considered to be the last resort and are mostly used in the scenario that the liver has become too damaged to even function properly.
Therefore, the patient needs to get a transplant to live a long and healthy life. However, finding a donor may be an issue and people are known to be on the transplant list for years and years. Hepatitis B is curable and preventable with proper care, you can live a healthy life.
Sarwat Makkani, MD
Yanelquis Torres, MD
Adnan Sohail, MD
Fabiola Baptiste, NP
Raga Mohamed Ali Osman
Sipra Talvikki Autio