What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease, which is caused by the hepatitis B virus. The disease can be both acute and chronic in nature. It can be a mild occurrence or turn out to be a lifelong serious illness. The virus affects the liver and causes inflammation in it. This in turn may result in liver cancer, liver failure, and in worse cases, even death.
What is the difference between acute and chronic Hepatitis B infections?
The early stage of the Hepatitis B infection is known as acute stage. This is usually six months from the infection. During this phase, the disease is manageable and can result in mild illness in the individual infected with the virus. Often, the patient can exhibit a few to no symptoms at all in the acute stage. The responses of people to the infection differ from person to person. Some require hospitalization, and some are able to even fight the disease and get completely cured in the early stage itself. The later stage of Hepatitis B, post the first six months of infection, is known as chronic stage. This is a dangerous stage and can cause severe problems in adults, babies and children as well. If chronic Hepatitis B is left untreated, it can lead to irreparable damages to the health, including death. Every year, roughly 5000 people die from liver cancer or liver damage caused by Hepatitis B in the U.S. alone.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B only exhibits mild symptoms in the acute stage of infection. While some people experience mild illnesses, other do not even exhibit them. However, more than two-thirds of the infected people exhibit symptoms that are typical of chronic stage of the infection. These symptoms include fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, abdominal pain, light or clay-colored feces, jaundice, joint pain, and other symptoms. It is typical of the infection to show symptoms anywhere between six weeks to six months of contracting the infection. Therefore, people can transmit the disease even when they are not exhibiting any symptoms.
How does Hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B can be transmitted from one person to another through two media – blood and sexual fluids of the infected individual. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex, or sharing of syringes, needles, and similar equipment, are the most common ways through which the disease is transmitted. Apart from these, there are many other ways in which infected body fluids can be transmitted to a healthy individual, such as sharing of toiletries and utensils, coughing, sneezing, holding hands, hugging, kissing, breastfeeding, and so on.
How is Hepatitis B detected?
There are multiple ways in which Hepatitis B can be detected easily and conveniently. The testing centers take the blood sample of the infected individual and subject it to a suitable test. One way of testing is to test the presence of antigens that are found on the surface of the Hepatitis B viruses. Another way is to check for the antibodies, which are produced by the body in response to the presence of Hepatitis B virus. Some of the testing centers in our recommended list conduct both the tests to ensure high accuracy of the test results. It is customary to conduct the second test as a confirmation test when the first test gives a positive result. It is crucial to detect the Hepatitis B infection as early as possible to prevent the complications arising out of it later on.
Where do I get tested for Hepatitis B?
There are numerous testing centers, which can perform tests to detect Hepatitis B in an individual. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of some of the most sophisticated and well-equipped testing centers across the U.S. All of these testing centers are CLIA-certified and you will find some of them in your vicinity too. If you need any assistance with finding a testing center in your vicinity, you can contact us. We would be happy to guide you through the process.
Can Hepatitis B be cured?
If Hepatitis B is caught early in the acute phase, it can be cured with lots of fluid intake, bed rest, and close monitoring by a physician. Even then, it might take several months to get completely cured. On the other hand, chronic Hepatitis B is not completely curable. To prevent severe complications arising out of chronic Hepatitis B such as liver cancer or liver failure, the infected individual should be closely monitored by a physician. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe some medications to prevent the spread of the infection.
What happens if Hepatitis B is left untreated?
If Hepatitis B is not treated in the acute phase, it will graduate to the chronic phase. Then, it can cause severe damages such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver damage, and complete liver failure. It is highly recommended that individuals get tested for Hepatitis B, when they feel that they are at risk of contracting the infection. Also, it is best if the Hepatitis B test is made a part of the STD testing routine.
How to prevent the Hepatitis B infection?
Apart from absolute abstinence, vaccination is the best method to prevent Hepatitis B infection. Safe sex practices such as using condoms, and dental dams are a great way of dramatically reducing the chances of Hepatitis B infection through sexual intercourse. When it comes to sex, monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is a highly safe method of avoiding infection. Also, it is a best practice to discuss with your partner whether they have any sexually transmitted disease, before engaging in sex. Of course, it is also advised that people avoid any kind of drug use as well.