What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can cause both acute and chronic disease. During the first six months, the hepatitis B infection is considered to be “acute”. If a person tests positive for HBV for more than six months, then they are diagnosed as having a chronic hepatitis B infection.
20-30% of adults who have chronic hepatitis B infection will develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.
And people who have hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in the blood for more than six months are consider to be hepatitis B carriers. The majority of these carriers have no symptoms, do not develop chronic hepatitis and do not require treatment.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through contact with the blood, semen or other body fluids of an infected person. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth.
Signs and Symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark urine (brown or orange)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin or whites of eyes)
A number of blood tests are available to diagnose and monitor people with hepatitis B. They can be used to distinguish acute and chronic infections.
Liver Function Test
Liver function test measures the level of liver enzymes in the blood. In chronic hepatitis B patients, ALT (or SGPT) is the liver enzyme marker that is followed most closely. An elevated ALT level indicates that the liver might not be functioning properly and that there is a risk of liver damage.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B aims to reduce the risk of liver disease. Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with medicine. These are some common choices:
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
Unfortunately, in most people, treatment does not cure hepatitis B infection, but only slows down or stops the virus from multiplying. Therefore, most people who start treatment must continue for life. Also, in some people, interferon can cause a wide range of persistent and unpleasant side effects. This means that treatment may need to be withdrawn. The success rate of interferon for hepatitis B is around 20% to cure and 40% to stop liver damage.
Interferons have common side effects, including fever, headaches, and hair loss. They may also cause depression, difficulty breathing and chest tightness.
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.