Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by infection with a virus. It is called the hepatitis B virus. Infection with hepatitis B virus can cause acute or chronic infection of the liver.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by infection with a virus. It is called the hepatitis B virus. Most viruses can get transmitted from one person to another. The term hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Inflammation means painful, red swelling of the part of the body that is injured or infected. When an organ becomes inflamed it may not work properly.
The liver is an organ in the body that is situated in the abdomen. A person cannot live without a liver. It has many important functions such as:
- Remove harmful chemicals and toxic products from the blood.
- Helps fight infection.
- Helps to digest food.
- Stores important nutrients and vitamins.
- Stores energy.
All of us are at risk of getting hepatitis B infection, but some people who are at higher risk, include:
- Babies born to a mother with hepatitis B.
- People living in close contact with someone who has hepatitis B.
- People living in parts of the world where hepatitis B is prevalent.
- People working with blood or body fluids (such as health professional, lab workers).
- People on haemodialysis.
- People with more than one sex partner.
- People who have a history of sexually transmitted disease.
- People who use injection for drugs.
- Homosexual men.
Hepatitis B infection is not transmitted by:
- Shaking hands or sitting with an infected person.
- Hugging or touching an infected person.
Hepatitis B infection may not cause symptoms in many people. Some of the symptoms which may develop in a person with hepatitis B include:
- Jaundice (yellowish discolouration of eyes and skin).
- Tiredness, fatigue.
- Stomach pain.
- Loss of appetite.
- Light-coloured stools.
- Dark yellow urine.
Infection with hepatitis B virus can cause acute or chronic infection of the liver. If you have symptoms suggestive of liver infection your doctor will recommend tests to check for Hepatitis B. The blood tests can show whether you have chronic hepatitis B or the normal type.
Other tests may be conducted if chronic hepatitis B is suspected.
Treatment of acute infection includes supportive care. Supportive care includes giving medicines to reduce fever or control vomiting, fluids - oral or intravenous as required. Specific treatment for Hepatitis B is given in cases of chronic infection. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B aims to slow or stop the virus from damaging the liver. Your doctor will recommend drugs and duration of treatment based on tests and symptoms.
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