Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious disease of liver caused by Hepatitis B virus. The virus spreads from person to person through blood contact by any means. When it develops for the first time in adulthood, people usually develop Jaundice (acute Hepatitis B). In children, acute infection with Hepatitis B virus is usually asymptomatic, but after many years, they can develop various degrees of liver damage (chronic hepatitis).

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

People with acute hepatitis usually develop jaundice. These symptoms can get better in weeks to months.

However in 1 out of every 20 adults who gets hepatitis B, the disease get established over several years, and can lead to cirrhosis and complications if not treated and followed. Fortunately most people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms. Over the time patients with cirrhosis, may develop complications like:

  • Swelling in the belly (ascites) and legs.
  • Easy bruising
  • Confusion and coma
  • Blood Vomitings, black tarry stools.

Chronic hepatitis B also increases the risk of getting liver cancer.

How the disease is transmitted? —

  • Having sex without condoms with someone who was infected
  • Sharing drug needles.
  • Using infected needles for tattooing, acupuncture, or piercings
  • From infected mother to child during childbirth
  • Sharing toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items with someone who was infected

What are the tests for Hepatitis B? — Hepatitis B infection or its extent of damage to the liver can be diagnosed by routine blood investigations, viral markers including its DNA estimation and ultrasound.

Some people might need fibroscan or a liver biopsy.

How is Hepatitis B treated? — Most people with acute hepatitis B do not need treatment, and most of the patient can get rid of virus by body own defense mechanism ("immune system").

If someone has chronic hepatitis, doctor might suggest taking medicines (antivirals). However, not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs treatment at the time of diagnosis, but they will need regular monitoring. This involves doing routine blood tests and ultrasound. If the tests show that the virus is doing more damage to the liver medicines can be started at that time.

How the disease can be controlled or damage can be minimized? —

  • Avoid alcohol, reduce weight if obese.
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A
  • Avoiding pain killers and desi (alternative/herbal) medications.