Hepatitis B: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment Options
April 15, 2019
There are some health conditions that tend to scare people by the mere mention of the name. Such is the case with HIV, cancer, and hepatitis. It can get very confusing within the hepatitis realm, since there are so many different types of the illness. It can be overwhelming trying to sort it out.
In an attempt to help you better understand Hepatitis B and what it entails, below is an overview of the disease, how to recognize symptoms, and what you can do about it.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the HBV virus. It is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or saliva. Generally, people contract it through sexual intercourse or by sharing needles.
Other ways of acquiring HBV include contact with an infected person’s fluids, or pregnant women passing the virus to her baby during childbirth.
Who is Likely to Have Hepatitis B?
There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of contracting Hepatitis B:
- Having unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Intimate relations with sex workers
- Sharing needles for drug use
- Living with someone who has Hepatitis B
- Sharing a razor, toothbrush, or other personal hygiene items with a person who is infected with the virus.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Symptoms of Hepatitis B range in severity. However, many patients who have the virus experience the following:
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the whites of the eyes
- Yellowing of the skin
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
If you show signs of Hepatitis B, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If the disease becomes chronic (meaning that it lasts for longer than six months or if it keeps recurring), complications can occur including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing Hepatitis B requires blood testing. Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history as well as exposure to risk factors.
Treatment includes antiviral medications designed to suppress the virus and to slow the progression of cirrhosis. Hepatitis B does not have a cure and treatment must be continued for life. However, in many cases, symptoms subside with treatment.
- Get vaccinated. The first line of prevention is vaccination. This vaccine is administered in a series of doses (three). When given to an infant, it is delivered along with their routine vaccinations. The vaccine provides protection for 20 years.
- Practice safe sex. If you’re going to have sex with multiple partners, always wear a condom and use a dental dam if you’re participating in oral sex. Make sure to check the expiration date on these prophylactics, and store them in a cool, dry place (excessive heat and moisture will damage the material).
- Do not share needles. We do not advocate intravenous drug use, but if you are a user, do not use needles that have been used by someone else.
- Follow risk control protocols. Whether you work in the healthcare industry or are seeking treatment, always ensure the facility is following adequate risk control protocols
Difference Between Hepatitis B and C
Both Hepatitis B and C are infections that affect the liver, and they both present the same symptoms. However, Hepatitis C only spreads through blood contact. Hepatitis B spreads through blood and other bodily fluids. This is possible through sharing intravenous needles, childbirth, or obtaining medical treatment.
Although both Hepatitis B and C can develop into chronic conditions, it is more likely to happen with Hepatitis C. It’s important to note that many people live with either of the viruses without being aware of it, since symptoms only develop once the illness has progressed.
If You Believe You May Have Been Exposed to the Hepatitis B Virus, Let Us Help You.
At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of liver disease. We work with over 70 referring physicians in San Antonio and Austin, providing clinical trials in liver disease.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you.