Hepatitis B Treatment & Advice
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
If you think you might have Hepatitis B, PLEASE DON'T PANIC
Hepatitis B can be either acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus.
Acute infection can — but does not always — lead to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body. Chronic Hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, and even death.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.
How do people get Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.
Hepatitis B is not spread through breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. Unlike some forms of hepatitis, Hepatitis B is also not spread by contaminated food or water.
What are the signs or symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Although a majority of adults develop symptoms from acute Hepatitis B virus infection, many young children do not. Adults and children over the age of 5 years are more likely to have symptoms. Seventy percent of adults will develop symptoms from the infection.
Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis B, if they appear, can include:
Fever, Fatigue, Loss of appetite, Nausea, Vomiting, Abdominal pain, Dark urine, Clay-colored bowel movements, Joint pain, Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or the eyes)
Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis B
Some people have ongoing symptoms similar to acute Hepatitis B, but most individuals with chronic Hepatitis B remain symptom free for as long as 20 or 30 years. About 15%–25% of people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. Even as the liver becomes diseased, some people still do not have symptoms, although certain blood tests for liver function might begin to show some abnormalities.
How soon after exposure to Hepatitis B will symptoms appear?
On average, symptoms appear 90 days (or 3 months) after exposure, but they can appear any time between 6 weeks and 6 months after exposure.
How long do acute Hepatitis B symptoms last?
Symptoms usually last a few weeks, but some people can be ill for as long as 6 months.
Can a person spread Hepatitis B without having symptoms?
Yes. Many people with Hepatitis B have no symptoms, but these people can still spread the virus.
How will I know if I have Hepatitis B?
Talk to your health professional. Since many people with Hepatitis B do not have symptoms, doctors diagnose the disease by one or more blood tests. These tests look for the presence of antibodies or antigens and can help determine whether you: have acute or chronic infection have recovered from infection are immune to Hepatitis B could benefit from vaccination
How is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?
There are many different blood tests available to diagnose Hepatitis B. They can be ordered as an individual test or as a series of tests. Ask your health professional to explain what he or she hopes to learn from the tests and when you will get the results. Below are some of the common tests and their meanings. But remember: only your doctor can interpret your individual test results.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?
How is acute Hepatitis B treated?
There is no medication available to treat acute Hepatitis B. During this short-term infection, doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids, although some people may need to be hospitalized.
How is chronic Hepatitis B treated?
It depends. People with chronic Hepatitis B virus infection should seek the care or consultation of a doctor with experience treating Hepatitis B. This can include some internists or family medicine practitioners, as well as specialists such as infectious disease physicians, gastroenterologists, or hepatologists (liver specialists). People with chronic Hepatitis B should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease and evaluated for possible treatment. Several medications have been approved for Hepatitis B treatment, and new drugs are in development. However, not every person with chronic Hepatitis B needs to be on medication, and the drugs may cause side effects in some patients.
What can people with chronic Hepatitis B do to take care of their liver?
People with chronic Hepatitis B should be monitored regularly by a doctor experienced in caring for people with Hepatitis B. They should avoid alcohol because it can cause additional liver damage. They also should check with a health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, as these can potentially damage the liver.
How can Hepatitis B be Prevented?
Can Hepatitis B be prevented?
Yes. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine. The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective and is usually given as 3-4 shots over a 6-month period.
What is the Hepatitis B vaccine series?
The Hepatitis B vaccine series is a sequence of shots that stimulate a person’s natural immune system to protect against HBV. After the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies that protect a person against the virus. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that is produced in response to a virus invading the body. These antibodies are then stored in the body and will fight off the infection if a person is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus in the future.
Who should get vaccinated against Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for:
All infants, starting with the first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine at birth
All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated
People whose sex partners have Hepatitis B
Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship.
Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
Men who have sexual contact with other men
People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
People who have close household contact with someone infected with the Hepatitis B virus
Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
People with end-stage renal disease, including predialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
Travelers to regions with moderate or high rates of Hepatitis B
People with chronic liver disease
People with HIV infection
Anyone who wishes to be protected from Hepatitis B virus infection
In order to reach individuals at risk for Hepatitis B, vaccination is also recommended for anyone in or seeking treatment from the following:
Sexually transmitted disease treatment facilities
HIV testing and treatment facilities
Facilities providing drug-abuse treatment and prevention services
Health care settings targeting services to injection drug users
Health care settings targeting services to men who have sex with men
Chronic hemodialysis facilities and end-stage renal disease programs
Institutions and nonresidential day care facilities for developmentally disabled persons