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Aug 2023

Hepatitis B: Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors, and Diagnosis

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Aug 12, 2023

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, and it transmits through body fluids including blood. Most people have acute hepatitis B, but untreated hepatitis B can become chronic with time. And chronic hepatitis B can cause severe damage to the liver. Although hepatitis B infection is not completely curable, vaccines can prevent this infection.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection which is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B is one of the five types of hepatitis virus. These infections cause inflammation in the liver tissues. Hepatitis B infection can be acute and severe as well. Some people have the acute form of hepatitis B that resolves on its own, while some people may develop chronic hepatitis that need serious medical treatment.

One can pass this infection without knowing that they have this infection. Infants who have this infection from birth are more at a risk of developing chronic hepatitis B later. Chronic hepatitis B develops steadily and may not cause any symptoms until complications begin to appear.

How common is Hepatitis B infection?

Hepatitis B can be described as one of the most common liver infections throughout the world. According to research, nearly two hundred and fifty million people are struggling with hepatitis B, and most of them do not know they have it.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B infection?

Most people contracted this virus from their parents at the time of their birth. However, the infection can not be diagnosed at that time, as it does not show noticeable symptoms until the child is 5 years old.

Hepatitis B may or may not show many symptoms. Generally the symptoms begin to appear within two to five months after contracting the virus. No matter whether the person is having symptoms or not, they can still spread the virus.

The common symptoms of early infection are:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Swelling in abdominal, arms and legs
  • Dark colored urine
  • Light or clay colored stool
  • Jaundice

The symptoms of acute infection may resolve on their own, but you still need to see a doctor if any symptoms occur. The symptoms of chronic hepatitis B may not show soon but later on when the symptoms begin to arrive, it may indicate severe liver condition or liver failure.

How can you get hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B virus spreads through body fluids, such as blood and semen. In more simple words, you can get infected with this virus, if any body fluids of an infected person enters your body. This transmission can happen due to several reasons, including:

  • From parent to newborn
  • Having sex with an infected person without using a barrier
  • Using shared syringes and needles
  • By sharing toothbrush, nail clippers and razor
  • Contracted from an open wound of an infected person

Apart from all these, the hepatitis B virus can live on surfaces for about seven days. Hepatitis B virus is also present in saliva, but it does not transmit easily through saliva. Therefore, you cannot get this infection from hugging, holding hands, kissing, breast feeding, sharing utensils, sneezing or coughing.

Who is at a high risk of having hepatitis B infection?

You are at a high risk of developing this infection, if you live in an area where this infection is very common. The possible risk factors of this infection are:

  • Being a medical professional
  • People who use injection drugs
  • People having a partner who has hepatitis infection
  • People undergoing dialysis for kidney disease

How is hepatitis B diagnosed?

To diagnose a hepatitis B infection, at first, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and run a physical examination. They might ask you about your and your family’s health history, to understand if your family member has liver disease.

After that your doctor will prescribe you certain diagnostic tests including hepatitis B profile is specialized for detecting hepatitis B infection.

There are certain hepatitis B tests, such as Hepatitis B Virus (HCV) Qualitative PCR test and Hepatitis B Virus (HCV) Quantitative PCR test which will give you more details about the condition. They may provide you the following information:

  • Whether you have an acute or chronic hepatitis B infection
  • Whether you have been infected in the past
  • If you have built up immunization to the virus
  • If the infection is causing interference in the liver function

After this test, your healthcare provider may prescribe more tests to determine your liver condition. In some cases, the doctor may prefer radiographic images of the liver or suggest a liver biopsy.

The treatment for the hepatitis B infection depends on the status of the infection. However, there is no treatment available for acute hepatitis B infection. Generally people with an acute infection do not need much treatment. Besides, doctors use oral antiviral medication and immune modulator drugs to treat chronic hepatitis B infection.

However, acute infection is curable, but chronic hepatitis B is not curable and it becomes a life-long condition. While chronic hepatitis may not cause death, it can cause liver cancer. Therefore, it will be a good decision to get immunization for this virus beforehand.