Hepatitis B
Dr. Mayank Agarwal

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). For some people, hepatitis B infection becomes chronic, meaning it lasts more than six months. Having chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis — a condition that permanently scars of the liver.

Most adults with hepatitis B recover fully, even if their signs and symptoms are severe. Infants and children are more likely to develop a chronic (long-lasting) hepatitis B infection.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B range from mild to severe. They usually appear about one to four months after you’ve been infected, although you could see them as early as two weeks post-infection. Some people, usually young children, may not have any symptoms.

Hepatitis B signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

When to see a doctor

If you know you’ve been exposed to hepatitis B, contact your doctor immediately. A preventive treatment may reduce your risk of infection if you receive the treatment within 24 hours of exposure to the virus.

If you think you have signs or symptoms of hepatitis B, contact your doctor.

Risk factors

Hepatitis B spreads through contact with blood, semen or other body fluids from an infected person. Your risk of hepatitis B infection increases if you:

  • Have unprotected sex with multiple sex partners or with someone who’s infected with HBV
  • Share needles during IV drug use
  • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • Live with someone who has a chronic HBV infection
  • Are an infant born to an infected mother
  • Have a job that exposes you to human blood

Causes

Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is passed from person to person through blood, semen or other body fluids. It does not spread by sneezing or coughing.

Common ways that HBV can spread are:

  • Sexual contact. You may get hepatitis B if you have unprotected sex with someone who is infected. The virus can pass to you if the person’s blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body.
  • Sharing of needles. HBV easily spreads through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing IV drug paraphernalia puts you at high risk of hepatitis B.
  • Accidental needle sticks. Hepatitis B is a concern for health care workers and anyone else who comes in contact with human blood

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