Diseases & Conditions

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis BCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Hepatitis B?

Viral Hepatitis B causes inflammation of the liver. Originally called serum hepatitis it has caused epidemics in Africa and Asia. More than 2 billion individuals have Hepatitis B.

Causes and Transmission of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is the result of infection by the HBV virus. The virus survives in the blood and is transmitted from person to person through direct contact- sharing dirty needles, getting stabbed by a dirty needle, a danger of healthcare workers or direct contact in another manner. Hepatitis B gets transmitted with these bodily fluids contact skin with a cut or mucous membranes of an uninfected individual.

Medication for Hepatitis B

There are seven basic medications that are used to treat Hepatitis B. There are 5 antiviral drugs. These include Epivir, Hepsera, Viread, Tyzeka and Baraclude. The remaining two medications are for the immune system and are called interferon alpha 2-a and PEGylated interferon alpha-2a. Other possible medications to treat Hepatitis B include Pediarix, Twinrix, BayHep B, Nabi-HB and BayGam.

Prevention of Hepatitis B

One of the best ways to prevent Hepatitis B is by having only protected sex. In addition do not share razors, toothbrushes or other personal items. Do not share needles or get tattoos or body piercings in unsanitary places. Mothers who are Hepatitis B positive should not breastfeed unless their child has been vaccinated.

Risk Factors for Hepatitis B

The following behaviors can increase the risk an individual will contact Hepatitis B:

  • Unprotected sex with multiple partners.
  • Unprotected sex with someone infected by HBV.
  • Having a sexually transmitted disease
  • Homosexuality
  • Sharing needles with other IV drug users
  • Living in the same home with someone who has chronic Hepatitis B.
  • Working near or with human blood.
  • Getting hemodialysis for kidney disease
  • Traveling to a part of the world where the incidence rate of Hepatitis B is high.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

The initial symptoms of Hepatitis B can be easily confused for the flu and include nausea and vomiting, fever and muscle aches. Particular to Hepatitis B in conjunction with the aforementioned symptoms is itching of the skin. As the disease progresses the patient may develop jaundice. Some who are already suffering from other illnesses can develop severe liver damage that can lead to death.

Treatment for Hepatitis B

In most instances, individuals with acute Hepatitis B are able to spontaneously rid themselves of the infection. For those patients that have a particularly violent form of Hepatitis B treatment with antiviral medications may be required. Those with chronic Hepatitis B that have high levels of the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase may also need antiviral treatment. These antiviral medications prevent the hepatitis virus from replicating. When a baby is born to an infected mother they are treated with antibodies to the Hepatitis B virus. If this vaccine is administered within 12 hours of the baby being born there is a90% of the child getting Hepatitis B.

Types of Hepatitis B

There are three types of chronic Hepatitis B:

  • Inactive Hepatitis B-in this situation Hepatitis B is present but tests find normal living enzymes and the individual is asymptomatic. These carriers are not infectious to others but are more prone to liver diseases later in life. In addition the virus can reactivate itself at any time.
  • Chronic Hepatitis B either HbeAg positive and HbeAg negative-this individual is highly infectious with inflammation and damage to the liver.
  • Resolved chronic Hepatitis B-this type of Hepatitis B is very rare. Liver enzymes eventually drop down to normal and there is less likelihood of liver damage. These individuals are usually noninfectious.