What is Hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) attacks the liver. HBV is divided into two groups: acute and chronic. Acute patients are usually free from the disease within six months, while the chronic patients (generally those who developed HBV in infancy) generally have the disease for life.

Transmission

There are a number of ways that HBV is transmitted, though all have to do with being in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person:

Mother to child - Children born with HBV are the most likely to have a chronic condition, so prompt treatment is necessary.

Through contaminated needles - Generally occurs when IV drug users share needles or medical employees accidentally stick themselves with used needles.

Sexual contact

  • Anal Sex
  • Oral Sex
  • Vaginal Sex
  • Shared sexual devices (if not cleaned properly)

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B in Men and Women?

Most people develop symptoms within the first three months after infection. The symptoms of HBV may include:

  • Abdominal pain (often near the liver)
  • Appetite loss
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Weakness/fatigue

Get tested for Hepatitis B (HBV)

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What Are the Complications and Risks of Hepatitis B?

Long term HBV infections can lead to:

  • Liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Acute liver failure
  • Risk of developing Hepatitis D

Partners and Re-infection

Additionally, all sexual partners should be made aware of your condition so that they can be tested, and if free from HBV, vaccinated against it. Once an acute case of HBV resolves itself, the person cannot get HBV again. However, they can still contract other types of hepatitis.

Recurrence

Acute HBV is not associated with any recurrences and chronic HBV does not usually go away. However, recurrence of HBV has been known to occur in patients who have received liver transplants. These risks are usually minimal since therapies are in place to help prevent them.

How is Hepatitis B Treated?

If you know you have been in contact with HBV, contact your doctor immediately to receive a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin. This injection can possibly prevent you from developing HBV. Additionally, you should receive the first vaccination shot at that time.

Chronic HBV may be left to monitoring as opposed to treatment, though antiviral medications can be useful:

  • Interferon
  • Telbivudine (Tyzeka)
  • Entecavir (Baraclude)
  • Lamivudine (Epivir-HBV)
  • Adefovir dipivoxil (Hepsera)

Severe liver damage, however, can only be treated through a liver transplant.

Sexual Activity

It is important that you abstain from sexual intercourse while you have HBV.

Recovery Time

Chronic HBV will last a lifetime, and controlling progression of liver damage is the main concern. However, acute HBV generally resolves itself in less than six months.

Mark Riegel, MD
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Quick Snapshot

Can it be cured?

No. Acute HBV will resolve itself within six months; chronic HBV is generally a life-long condition.

Type of Infection

Viral. The Hepatitis B virus infects the liver.

How is treated?

Antiviral Medicine. A single dose of Azithromycin or seven daily doses of Doxycycline.

Recovery Time

Upto 6 Months. An acute case of HBV is usually over within six months.

Can I have sex?

No. It is recommended that sexual intercourse is avoided until you are free from the disease.

Can I get re-infected?

No. Once you have had an acute HBV infection, you cannot get it again, though you can still contract other types of hepatitis.

Do I Have Hepatitis B?

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