What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a viral infection affecting the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). There are two forms of hepatitis B infection: acute and chronic. Acute hepatitis B usually lasts up to 6 months and is mainly seen in adults. Chronic hepatitis B lasts longe-rand can develop in children below the age of 5 as well as in certain adults. There are usually no immediate symptoms, but those infected can carry the virus in their bodies for the rest of their lives and are referred to as carriers.
Causes of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and is transmissible by blood, semen or other body fluids. It is not spread by sneezing or coughing.
Common ways that Hepatitis B virus can spread include:
- Sexual or intimate contact
- Sharing of needles
- Accidental needle sticks
- Transfer from mother to baby during birth
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B signs and symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Joint and muscle pain
Diagnosis of Hepatitis B
The doctor will assess the symptoms and perform a physical examination.
The diagnostic tests include:
- Blood tests: Detects the virus and antibodies produced.
- Liver function test: Determines the health of your liver; a high liver enzyme count-can indicate damaged liver tissue.
- Abdominal ultrasound: Uses ultrasound waves to create images of internal abdominal organs.
- Biopsy: A small piece of liver tissue is extracted and observed for the presence of the disease.
Some forms of hepatitis virus may harm the liver without causing signs or symptoms.
Screening for hepatitis B may be suggested for individuals who:
- Are pregnant
- Have multiple sex partners
- Have a history of a sexually transmitted disease (STDs)
- Receive kidney dialysis
- Take immune-suppressing medications
- Inject recreational drugs
- Have abnormal liver function test results
- Have been adopted from a place where hepatitis is common
Treatment for Hepatitis B
Prevention of Hepatitis B
The hepatitis B vaccine is an ideal way to prevent infection. Vaccination is highly recommended for:
- Newborn children
- Children and adolescents not vaccinated at birth
- People staying with someone who has hepatitis B
- Health care workers and other people who come into contact with blood
- People who have multiple sexual partners
- People who share needles and syringes
- People with chronic liver disease
- People with end-stage kidney disease
- Travellers planning to go to a high hepatitis B infection area
- People with sexually transmitted infections
Conventional wisdom is that everyone should receive the hepatitis B vaccine. It is relatively inexpensive and very safe.
Other ways to reduce the risk of hepatitis B include:
- Knowing the HBV status of a sexual partner
- Avoiding drug use
- Choosing tattoo and piercing parlours licensed by health departments
- When travelling internationally, checking whether the destination has a high incidence of hepatitis B and thus ensuring you are fully vaccinated prior to travel.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Crohn's Disease
- Bowel Incontinence
- Unintentional Weight Loss
- Upper Gastrointestinal Disease
- Swallowing Disorders
- Oesophageal Motility Disorder
- Gastric Disease
- Gastric Ulcers
- Peptic Ulcer
- Gallbladder Disease
- Liver Disease
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Liver Masses
- Hepatobiliary Disease
- Pancreatobiliary Diseases
- Evaluation of Gastrointestinal Malignancy or Pre-Malignant Conditions
- Liver Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Biliary Tract Cancer
- Polyp to Colon Cancer Progression
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Eosinophilia and Eosinophil-Associated Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs)
- Inflamed or Irritable Bowel
- Coeliac Disease
- Diverticular Disease
- Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding
- Lower Gastrointestinal Bleeding
- Rectal Bleeding
- Prevention of Gastrointestinal Diseases