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What is Hepatitis B (HBV) & How Do You Get It?

What is Hepatitis B (HBV) & How Do You Get It?

Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.

What is Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a liver infection caused by a virus that can lead to serious complications, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

  • The hepatitis B virus is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.
  • There is no cure for chronic hepatitis B virus.
  • 20–30% of people with chronic hepatitis will develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.
  • The virus has high stability. It can survive outside the body for more than 7 days and still cause infection.
  • People with a chronic hepatitis B infection can enjoy a long and healthy life in case of early detection of the disease and appropriate follow-up medical care.

The liver is the body's chemical laboratory. It performs over 500 vital functions, whereas most organs are responsible for several processes. The major functions of the liver include blood filtering, detoxification, regulation of carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and bile production. The liver is involved in the formation of urea and lymph. It is also a significant blood reservoir and storage site for vitamins and minerals (iron). Moreover, stored glycogen can be metabolized into glucose to supply energy to the body.

The hepatitis B virus attacks liver cells and impairs the liver's ability to regenerate. The liver cells die and form scar tissue that disrupts the liver structure and function. Fortunately, the liver can function even when up to 80% of it is diseased or removed. 

What is Hepatitis B

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

Depending on the type of hepatitis virus and the stage of progression, symptoms can vary. Acute type causes a more severe illness, while people with chronic hepatitis have vague symptoms (they may not notice any signs for a long time).

The Following are the Most Common Symptoms of HBV

Symptoms of Hepatitis B
  • yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin
  • weakness, tenderness in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • recurring intense pain in the liver
  • nausea in the morning
  • bloated stomach
  •  periodic fever
  • darkening of the color of urine
  • lightening of the color of stool
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • frequent nosebleeds
  • bruising after minor injuries

Once hepatitis B becomes chronic, patients may develop signs of liver failure in addition to the main symptoms. Consequently, it can lead to the intoxication of the body. If left untreated at this stage, the patient will suffer from damage to the central nervous system.

How is Hepatitis B Virus Transmitted?

  • transfusion of infected blood
  • non-sterile instruments in hospitals, dentistry, tattoo and body piercing studios
  • sharing syringes to inject drugs
  • unprotected sex with an infected person
  • from mother to baby during childbirth

Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines. HBV is not spread through household contact. For example, you cannot get the virus from sharing utensils, hugging, kissing, or coughing. Besides, mothers with hepatitis B can safely breastfeed their babies.

Who's at Risk for Hepatitis B?

  • People who have unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.
  • Injecting drug users.
  • Health care workers (especially surgeons, pathologists, hemodialysis specialists, oncologists, dentists, laboratory workers in contact with blood serum).
  • Patients with renal failure who are undergoing hemodialysis.
  • Patients receiving regular blood transfusions (such as patients with thalassemia and hemophilia).
  • Emergency workers.

If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, contact your doctor immediately. Preventive treatment might reduce your risk of infection if you receive the treatment within 24 hours of exposure to the virus.

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