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Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B occurs when the liver experiences a viral infection.  The liver can become inflamed, swollen, and tender. Some liver tissue may be damaged by the inflammation, making this disease one of the most serious types of hepatitis.

Hepatitis B is caused by a viral infection spread through direct contact with the blood of an infected individual. This includes:

  • Sharing needles
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Getting a tattoo or piercing with unclean equipment

Infected individuals who are unaware of their condition are known as asymptomatic carriers, and they frequently transmit the disease without knowing it.

Symptoms

The symptoms of hepatitis may not be noticeable until weeks or months after infection. The illness will begin with symptoms associated with the flu, including:

  • Appetite loss
  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Tiredness
  • Itching
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Dark brown urine
  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Pain below the ribs
  • Bowel movements

Your gastroenterologist or doctor will examine your medical history and symptoms.  The skins and eyes will be especially looked at. Blood tests may show whether your liver is functioning correctly. If the severity of the condition is uncertain, a liver biopsy may be scheduled. During this procedure, a needle will be used to remove small amounts of tissue, which is numbed with an anesthetic.  The tissue sample will be tested to check for liver damage.

Treatments

Treatment for Hepatitis B includes frequent rest and avoiding alcohol for at least 6 months. You may need to receive IV fluids in the hospital if you become severely dehydrated. Chronic hepatitis B can be treated with interferon therapy, prescribed medicines, and other antiviral drugs.

The recovery may be slow and it may require 6 months before tests show that your liver is functioning correctly. Some patients may have a chronic form of hepatitis B.  Continuous inflammation can damage the liver, resulting in scarring or possible liver failure. Your doctor may check for signs of chronic liver disease by scheduling blood tests every few months.

Consultation

If you are affected, you should avoid taking medicines that can further damage the liver and ask about medicines you can safely take with your symptoms. Regarding when to resume normal work or school activities, you should follow your doctor’s advice very closely. Eat small high-protein and high-calorie meals to reduce the feelings of nausea, avoid drinking alcohol until your provider has said it is safe.

To avoid spreading the disease, wash your hands constantly and prevent body fluid contact with others. Other steps you must take include:

  • Avoid sharing foods
  • Do not share needles, toothbrushes, or razor blades
  • Avoid sexual contact until you are no longer contagious
  • Do not donate blood

The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians now recommend all children to have scheduled hepatitis B shots. More patients, such as teenagers and young adults, are encouraged to do the same to prevent sexual transmission. Ask your doctor if you should be immunized against the disease.

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