What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection which can be acute as well as chronic. It can also be life threatening. The Hepatitis B virus survives for 7 days outside the body and can infect if it enters the body. The incubation period is around 75 days, but sometimes varies from 30 to 180 days. Hepatitis B when chronic may lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis of liver. Most affected people respond to the treatment but a few don’t and they become carriers. These carriers can still infect others even after their own symptoms have disappeared.

How is Hepatitis B caused?

Hepatitis B is the viral infection which spreads by body fluids like blood and semen and vaginal fluids. The mode may be sexual or prenatal [which is from mother to unborn child]. One infected person is the carrier of this virus known as HBV and may pass it on to another.

  • Sexual contact without protection [no condom]
  • Sharing of used needles of intravenous drug users
  • Tattoo or Piercing with unclean instruments
  • Sharing of personal items like razors and tooth brush with infected person
  • From mother to unborn child
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

During the early phase of acute infection, most people may not experience any signs or symptoms. The signs and symptoms of Hepatitis B include yellowing of skin, mild fever, tiredness and headache, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, stomach-ache, diarrhoea, constipation, skin rash, muscle and joint pain.

How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

 Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by the presence of the above symptoms. A simple blood test may give the diagnosis of Hepatitis B. In addition the doctor may suggest liver biopsy for any other underlying condition.

The doctor may ask you whether you were vaccinated or not to arrive at the diagnosis of Hepatitis B.

A Hepatologist is the expert who treats liver conditions.

Is Hepatitis B curable?

There is no cure but symptoms of acute or short term Hepatitis B. It normally eases on its own in a few days. This involves a healthy lifestyle which necessarily includes eating healthy food and safe sex.

Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis are not felt for a long time and hence delay may cause complications like liver damage which can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

There is no cure for chronic Hepatitis B but vaccination for all Hepatitis types may prevent its outbreak and is very effective.

Can Hepatitis B be prevented?

Yes Hepatitis B can be prevented by Vaccination. Children after birth, and adults who are at risk, need to get vaccinated to avoid getting Hepatitis B.

A healthy life style and protected sex using a condom, not using or sharing of needles which may be contaminated, no sharing of personal items like razors and toothbrushes can help prevent Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B does not spread by simple hugging, kissing or handshake.

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