Hepatitis B
E-mail this E-mail this     Print Print this    
Hepatitis B is a very serious infection of the liver which can lead to chronic health problems, liver cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure for some patients. Most adults who contract the disease are able to make a full recovery, however, children and those with immune deficiency problems are not quite as likely to recover. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis b from being contracted and most babies receive this vaccination as part of their regular immunizations.


Symptoms may or may not appear for more than four weeks after infection. Many children and infants don’t develop symptoms for a long period of time, usually not until after liver damage has occurred. Once symptoms develop they are likely to include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, weakness, joint pain, dark urine, yellowing of the skin, yellowing of the whites of the eyes, and abdominal pain. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and hepatitis b can spread to others even when there are no symptoms. Patients who exhibit risky behavior or feel they may have been exposed should be tested.


The liver is above the stomach and just below the diaphragm, weighs close to 4 pounds, and is the largest internal organ of the human body by weight. It can often repair itself and even regenerate, however, hepatitis b renders the liver incapable of self repair. Hepatitis b is caused by a virus, and is only one of six currently recognized strains of hepatitis. The virus is passed through intravenous drug needle sharing, unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sexual activity, from mother to unborn child, and through accidental needle sticks in the health care industry. Hepatitis b can not be passed through casual contact, bodily fluids must be shared which means a patient can not contract it through sitting on a toilet seat, hugging, or through blood donation.
Hepatitis B
Image: Hepatitis B


Risk factors for contracting hepatitis b include having unprotected sexual intercourse with more than one partner or having unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner who is infected. Hepatitis b can be passed through partner to partner regardless of sexual orientation. Heterosexual individuals are at higher risk than homosexual or bisexual individuals simply because about 1/3 of heterosexual individuals believe that hepatitis b is only transmitted through homosexual behavior. Other risk factors for contracting hepatitis b include sharing needles, sharing a home with someone with a chronic hepatitis b infection, have a pre-existing sexually transmitted disease, received a blood transfusion prior to 1970, working in the health care industry or with human blood, residing in a correctional facility, and traveling to parts of the world where hepatitis b is prevalent.


Testing for hepatitis b is typically routinely done for women who are pregnant, children adopted from overseas, women who are pregnant who arrive from overseas into the United States, and as a part of a routine exam for those who are released from prison. A surface antigen test is done to determine whether or not there has been exposure to hepatitis b and a positive result means that there is the presence of the hepatitis b virus in the blood. A blood test for the antibodies to hepatitis b typically means that there was exposure, and either the patient has recovered or has received a vaccination. Antibodies that are present in the blood means that the virus can not be passed to others. However a blood test that reveals the antibodies to the core antigen means that there is either an acute or chronic infection and the virus can be spread to other people. When a patient has been diagnosed with hepatitis b core antibodies, liver functioning tests are recommended to determine the extent, if any, of liver damage.

Young children and babies who survive hepatitis b are more likely to develop the disease as an adult. Adults who are infected with hepatitis b may also run the risk of contracting hepatitis d, as hepatitis d can not be contracted without already being infected with hepatitis b. Other complications include liver failure, at which time a liver transplant is necessary to sustain life.


Treatment options for hepatitis b vary by the degree of health or unhealthy that the patient is experiencing. Some cases are simply monitored while other cases are treated with antiviral medications. In very severe cases when liver damage has occurred and the patient’s state of health is critical, the patient will require a liver transplant.

The risks of exposure to hepatitis b reduce considerably when individuals practice safe sex and do not share needles for drug use. Hepatitis b no longer needs to be a health crisis in the United States, but it continues to be due to the behaviors exhibited by potential patients.
  Member Comments

Medication commonly used for these disease:

drugs Hepatitis B drugs