Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver causing the inflammation of the liver. It is caused by Hepatitis B virus.
It can lead to liver failure or, in some cases cancer of the liver.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) lives in the blood and other bodily fluid, therefore it is transmitted from person to person through the following ways:
• Unprotected sex with an infected person
• Sharing needles or sharp instruments that pierce the skin
• Mother to child.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
In most cases, majority of the people who have this disease don’t show noticeable symptoms, they only find out through a blood test, however when present, the symptoms may include;
• Jaundice; Yellowing of the skin or the eyes (Your urine turns orange or brown)
• Weakness and fatigue that persists for weeks or months
• Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
• Belly pain
• Light colored poop
If there are noticeable symptoms such as jaundice, fatigue, enlarged and tender liver, the doctor may recommend tests to evaluate liver function. If liver malfunction is confirmed, the doctor may perform an ultrasound examination to check for gallstones or cancer. Questioning the patient may help to determine the possible cause of the infection. When the possible cause has been identified, doctor will further recommend specific lab tests to determine the form of hepatitis.
If you feel you’ve been infected with the virus, quickly see a doctor as soon as possible because, the earlier you get treatment, the better. The doctor will give you a vaccine and a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin – a protein that boosts your immune system and helps it fight off the infection. If your hepatitis infection is acute (i.e it is short-lived and will go away on its own) you may not need medication. Instead, the doctor might recommend rest, proper nutrition and plenty of fluids to enable your body fight the infection.
If hepatitis infection is active for longer than 6 months, you’re likely to have chronic active hepatitis B.
If you are diagnosed of chronic hepatitis B infection, it means you need treatment for the rest of your life since the disease has become incurable at this stage. The treatment helps reduce the risk of liver disease and prevents you from passing the infection to others.
Treatment for chronic hepatitis B may include:
I. Antiretroviral medications: Several antiviral medications an help to fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver. These medications include; entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread), lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera) and telbivudine (Tyzeka). Consult your doctor to know which medication might be right for you.
II. Interferon injections: This medication does not cure the disease, it only boosts your immune system. It is used mainly for young people with hepatitis B. Interferon has several side effects which may include nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and depression.
III. Liver transplant: If the disease has caused sever damage to your liver, a liver transplant may be an option.