• Hepatitis B is a liver infection which is caused by the hepatitis B virus 

  • Hepatitis B is found in infected blood, semen and vaginal fluid. It’s a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be passed on by having unprotected sex, sharing needles and from mother to child

  • The Hep-B infection can be a short-term infection in some cases

  • For others, it can become a long-term chronic infection which can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer
     

This is a non-curable disease, if infection becomes chronic.

HEPATITIS B

Hepatitis B Virus

Types of Hepatitis Infections

Hepatitis B can present symptoms in two forms: Acute Hepatitis B infection and Chronic Hepatitis B infection.

 

Acute Hepatitis B

  • This is a short-term illness which occurs within the first 6 months, after the exposure to the virus/infection 

  • The symptoms are generally mild i.e. no symptoms are observed. Mostly, the immune system fights the virus successfully and it is cleared from the body

  • But in cases of some individuals, especially children, the symptoms can be very severe which might require hospitalisation. The infection might progress to Chronic Hepatitis B

 

Chronic Hepatitis B

  • This is a lifelong infection 

  • Over time, the infection gets more severe and it leads to chronic liver conditions like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer and even, death

 

People who recover from Hepatitis B infections become immune to it. Therefore, re-infection is highly unlikely to occur.

Hepatitis B (Hep B) symptoms, treatment and prevention

Spread of Hepatitis

How hepatitis B (Hep B) spreads from person to person

Hepatitis B does not spread through breastfeeding, eating, coughing, sharing utensils, hand holding or sneezing. 

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

Major symptoms include:

  • Yellowing of eyes

  • Abdominal pain

  • Frequent dark coloured urine

  • Liver failure in chronic cases

  • Severe weight loss

  • Generalised weakness and fatigue, especially in chronic cases

  • Web of swollen vessels, appearing like spider veins on skin

  • Yellowing of the skin

  • Nausea and vomiting
     

Complications of Hepatitis B

Chronic hepatitis B can lead to:

Prevention of Hepatitis B

Some safe practices to avoid Hepatitis B:

  • Do not engage in unprotected sexual activities (oral, vaginal or anal)

  • Don't share needles

  • Don’t share razors, toothbrushes, nail care tools, or pierced earrings with anyone

  • The infection doesn't pass during pregnancy, but it can be transferred to the child during birth. Child should be treated with medicine and vaccine immediately after birth

  • Take a preventive course of Hepatitis B vaccine
     

Hepatitis B has been controlled to a large extent since after the introduction of Hep-B vaccine. 

 

It is advised to necessarily inject the following people with the vaccine:

  • All infants 

  • All children and adolescents below 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated

  • Sex workers

  • People with Hep-B positive sex partners

  • Haemodialysis patients 

  • People with diabetes between 19-59 years of age 

  • People with HIV infection 

  • People with any chronic liver condition
     

Treatment of Hepatitis B

  • Antiviral drugs are administered to diagnosed individuals

  • Lifestyle modifications which include complete abstinence from alcohol must be enforced immediately

  • There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B, and most people recover within one to two months

  • Usually, you can manage symptoms at home with painkillers, if necessary, and most people make a full recovery from acute hepatitis B. Proper care should be taken, aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. It is crucial to avoid unnecessary medicines

  • If you develop chronic hepatitis B, you’ll be given treatment to reduce the risk of permanent liver damage and liver cancer. Treatment can slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival but it does not cure chronic hepatitis B and most people who start treatment need to continue the same for life