Thursday, September 22, 2022

What Happens When You Have Hepatitis B

Immunisation For Hepatitis B

What you need to know about Hepatitis B

Immunisation is the best protection against hepatitis B infection. A course of vaccination is recommended for all babies and people in high-risk groups.

Immunisation can be with a vaccine against hepatitis B alone or with a combination vaccine. To be immunised, contact your doctor or local council.

Protection against hepatitis B is available free of charge under the National Immunisation Program Schedule. In Victoria, immunisation against hepatitis B is free for:

  • Babies at birth immunisation against hepatitis B alone as soon as possible after birth.
  • Babies at 2, 4 and 6 months combination immunisation in the form of a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine .
  • Premature babies at 12 months premature babies born under 32 weeks gestation or under 2,000g birth weight receive a single booster dose.
  • Children up to and including 9 years of age.
  • People aged less than 20 years having a catch-up immunisation.
  • Refugees and humanitarian entrants aged 20 years and above.

In Victoria, free hepatitis B vaccine is provided for people who are at increased risk of infection, including:

Immunisation is also recommended, but not necessarily free, for people who are at increased risk of infection, including:

What Treatments Are Available For Chronic Hepatitis B If Medications Dont Work

If you have advanced hepatitis B, you might also become a candidate for a liver transplant. This path does not always result in a cure because the virus continues in your bloodstream after a transplant. To prevent being infected again after your transplant, you may be prescribed hepatitis B immunoglobulin with an antiviral agent.

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The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.

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History And Physical Exam

To diagnose all forms of hepatitis, your doctor will first take your history to determine any risk factors you may have.

During a physical examination, your doctor may press down gently on your abdomen to see if thereâs pain or tenderness. Your doctor may also check for any swelling of the liver and any yellow discoloration in your eyes or skin.

How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis B

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Doctors typically dont treat hepatitis B unless it becomes chronic. Doctors may treat chronic hepatitis B with antiviral medicines that attack the virus.

Not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs treatment. If blood tests show that hepatitis B could be damaging a persons liver, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines to lower the chances of liver damage and complications.

Medicines that you take by mouth include

A medicine that doctors can give as a shot is peginterferon alfa-2a .

The length of treatment varies. Hepatitis B medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Tell your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

For safety reasons, you also should talk with your doctor before using dietary supplements, such as vitamins, or any complementary or alternative medicines or medical practices.

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When To Get Medical Advice

Hepatitis B can be serious, so you should get medical advice if:

  • you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus emergency treatment can help prevent infection if given within a few days of exposure
  • you have symptoms associated with hepatitis B
  • you’re at a high risk of hepatitis B high-risk groups include people born in a country where the infection is common, babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B, and people who have ever injected drugs

You can go to your local GP surgery, drug service, genitourinary medicine clinic or sexual health clinic for help and advice.

A blood test can be carried out to check if you have hepatitis B or have had it in the past.

The hepatitis B vaccine may also be recommended to reduce your risk of infection.

Whats The Prognosis For Hepatitis B

Your doctor will know youâve recovered when you no longer have symptoms and blood tests show:

  • Your liver is working normally.
  • You have hepatitis B surface antibody.

But some people don’t get rid of the infection. If you have it for more than 6 months, youâre whatâs called a carrier, even if you donât have symptoms. This means you can give the disease to someone else through:

  • Unprotected sex
  • Contact with your blood or an open sore
  • Sharing needles or syringes

Doctors donât know why, but the disease does go away in a small number of carriers. For others, it becomes whatâs known as chronic. That means you have an ongoing liver infection. It can lead to cirrhosis, or hardening of the organ. It scars over and stops working. Some people also get liver cancer.

If youâre a carrier or are infected with hepatitis B, donât donate blood, plasma, body organs, tissue, or sperm. Tell anyone you could infect — whether itâs a sex partner, your doctor, or your dentist — that you have it.

Show Sources

CDC: âHepatitis B Questions and Answers for Health Professionals,â âHepatitis B Questions and Answers for the Public.â

Mayo Clinic: âHepatitis B.â

UpToDate: âHepatitis B virus: Screening and diagnosis.â

CDC.

HealthyPeople.gov: âHepatitis B in Pregnant Women: Screening.â

Annals of Internal Medicine: âScreening for Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Nonpregnant Adolescents and Adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.â

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What Happens After A Hepatitis B Infection

Some people carry the virus in their bodies and are contagious for the rest of their lives. They should not drink alcohol, and should check with their doctor before taking any medicines to make sure these won’t cause more liver damage.

Anyone who has ever tested positive for hepatitis B cannot be a blood donor.

Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Test

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A hepatitis B surface antigen test shows if youre contagious. A positive result means you have hepatitis B and can spread the virus. A negative result means you dont currently have hepatitis B. This test doesnt distinguish between chronic and acute infection. This test is used together with other hepatitis B tests to determine the .

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Hepatitis B And Your Liver

The liver is such an important organ that we can survive only one or two days if it completely shuts down – if the liver fails, your body will fail, too. Fortunately, the liver can function even when up to 80% of it is diseased or removed. This is because it has the amazing ability to regenerate – or create – itself from healthy liver cells that still exist.

If your body were an automobile, your liver would be considered the engine. It does hundreds of vital things to make sure everything runs smoothly:

  • Stores vitamins, sugar and iron to help give your body energy
  • Controls the production and removal of cholesterol
  • Clears your blood of waste products, drugs and other poisonous substances
  • Makes clotting factors to stop excessive bleeding after cuts or injuries
  • Produces immune factors and removes bacteria from the bloodstream to combat infection
  • Releases a substance called “bile” to help digest food and absorb important nutrients

The word hepatitis actually means inflammation of the liver. Thus, hepatitis B refers to inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. With early detection and appropriate follow-up medical care, people living with a chronic hepatitis B infection can expect to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Causes Of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood that contains the hepatitis B virus. If infected blood or body fluids enter another persons bloodstream, that person may become infected.

The time from exposure to the hepatitis B virus to the appearance of the illness is 45 to 180 days.

Risky activities that can cause infection include:

  • Sharing unsterile or unclean equipment for injecting drugs.
  • Piercing the skin with equipment that is not properly cleaned, disinfected and sterilised.
  • Sharing razor blades or toothbrushes.
  • Coming into contact with infected blood through open cuts or the mucous membranes of another person.
  • Having unprotected sex , especially if there is blood present.

Mothers who have hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies or children at the time of birth or after birth. If the newborn baby is quickly immunised with 2 vaccines, they can be protected from getting hepatitis B.

All blood and blood products produced for medical purposes in Australia are carefully screened for hepatitis B and other blood-borne viruses. The risk of getting infected with hepatitis B from a blood transfusion is extremely low .

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Diagnosis Of Hepatitis B

Blood tests are available to determine if you are or have been infected with hepatitis B. It may take 6 months from the time of infection before a blood test can detect antibodies to hepatitis B, so follow-up testing may be required. During this 6-month period, until you know whether you are infected or not, take action to prevent potential infection of other people.

There are also tests that can assess liver damage from hepatitis B. The interpretation of these tests can be complicated and specialist advice is needed, so talk to your doctor.

All pregnant women are tested for hepatitis B. If you are found to have chronic hepatitis B, your doctor can help reduce the risk of transferring the infection to your newborn child.

What Happens If You Have Hepatitis

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.

Acute hepatitis is short term and begins after the first infection. It can lead to chronic hepatitis, which is long term.

Some types of hepatitis such as hepatitis A only cause acute infection.

Chronic hepatitis is long term and can cause lasting damage to the liver. Very serious cases can lead to liver failure or cancer.

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What Laboratory Tests Are Available For Hepatitis B

Tests are available to detect the types of antigens used to identify the hepatitis B virus. The tests determine if the virus is present in the body tissue or blood. The amount of each type of antigen present indicates how advanced the disease is and how infective the individual has become.

Other tests are available to detect the body’s reaction to the viral infection or the body’s reaction to vaccination against the virus. These tests work by measuring the number of antibodies present in the blood.

Outlook For Hepatitis B

The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis B in adulthood are able to fight off the virus and fully recover within 1 to 3 months.

Most will then be immune to the infection for life.

Babies and children with hepatitis B are more likely to develop a chronic infection.

Chronic hepatitis B affects around:

  • 90% of babies with hepatitis B
  • 20% of older children with hepatitis B
  • 5% of adults with hepatitis B

Although treatment can help, there’s a risk that people with chronic hepatitis B could eventually develop life-threatening problems, such as scarring of the liver or liver cancer.

Page last reviewed: 30 January 2019 Next review due: 30 January 2022

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Chronic Hepatitis B Infection

If you develop chronic hepatitis B, youll be given treatment to reduce the risk of permanent liver damage and liver cancer. Treatment does not cure chronic hepatitis B and most people who start treatment need to continue for life.

Without treatment, chronic hepatitis B can cause scarring of the liver , which can cause the liver to stop working properly.

A small number of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer, and these complications can lead to death. Other than a liver transplant, there is no cure for cirrhosis. However, treatments can help relieve some of the symptoms.

Hepatitis B During Pregnancy

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If a woman with HBV becomes pregnant, they may transmit the virus to their baby. Women should inform the doctor who delivers their baby that they have HBV.

The infant should receive an HBV vaccine and HBIG with 1224 hours of birth. This significantly reduces the risk that they will develop HBV.

The HBV vaccine is safe to receive while pregnant.

People with a high risk of HBV include:

  • the infants of mothers with HBV
  • the sexual partners of people with HBV
  • people who engage in sexual intercourse without contraception and those who have multiple sexual partners
  • men who have sex with men
  • people who inject illicit drugs
  • those who share a household with a person who has a chronic HBV infection
  • healthcare and public safety workers who are at risk of occupational exposure to blood or contaminated bodily fluids
  • people receiving hemodialysis, which is a type of kidney treatment
  • people taking medications that suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer
  • those who come from a region with a high incidence of HBV
  • all women during pregnancy

People can prevent HBV infection by:

  • wearing appropriate protective equipment when working in healthcare settings or dealing with medical emergencies
  • not sharing needles
  • following safe sexual practices
  • cleaning any blood spills or dried blood with gloved hands using a 1:10 dilution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water

A vaccine against HBV has been available since 1982.

People who should receive this vaccine include:

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How Do Doctors Treat The Complications Of Hepatitis B

If chronic hepatitis B leads to cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Doctors can treat the health problems related to cirrhosis with medicines, minor medical procedures, and surgery. If you have cirrhosis, you have an increased chance of liver cancer. Your doctor may order blood tests and an ultrasound or another type of imaging test to check for liver cancer.

If chronic hepatitis B leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.

How Is Hepatitis B Diagnosed

There are three main ways to diagnose HBV infection. They include:

  • Blood tests: Tests of the blood serum shows how your bodys immune system is responding to the virus. A blood test can also tell you if you are immune to HBV.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show the size and shape of your liver and how well the blood flows through it.
  • Liver biopsy: A small sample of your liver tissue is removed though a tiny incision and sent to a lab for analysis.

The blood test that is used to diagnose hepatitis B is not a test that you get routinely during a medical visit. Often, people whove become infected first learn they have hepatitis B when they go to donate blood. Blood donations are routinely scanned for the infection.

The virus can be detected within 30 to 60 days of infection. About 70% of adults with hepatitis B develop symptoms, which tend to appear an average of 90 days after initial exposure to the virus.

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Hiv And Hbv Coinfection

About 2% of people with HIV in the United States are coinfected with HBV both infections have similar routes of transmission. People with HIV are at greater risk for complications and death from HBV infection. All people with HIV are recommended to be tested for HBV, and if susceptible, are further recommended to receive the hepatitis B vaccination or, if chronically infected, evaluated for treatment to prevent liver disease and liver cancer. For more information about HIV and HBV coinfection, visit HIV.govâs pages about hepatitis B and HIV coinfection.

Acute Hepatitis B Symptoms

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There are three phases of acute hepatitis B infection, and symptoms may differ depending on the stage. Early in the disease, called the prodromal phase, symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Dark urine and light stool color

During the icteric phase:

  • Jaundice develops
  • Anorexia, nausea and vomiting may worsen
  • Irritated skin lesions may develop
  • Other symptoms may subside

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What Is The Outlook For People With Hepatitis B

The outlook for people with HBV is better now than ever before. You are certainly able to live a full life and help yourself stay healthy. You should make sure to have regular check-ups with a healthcare provider who is qualified to treat hepatitis B, possibly a liver doctor.

Make sure you are vaccinated against hepatitis A. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking other medications or over-the-counter products, including supplements and natural products. These could interfere with your medication or damage your liver. For instance, taking acetaminophen in large doses may harm your liver.

Follow the usual guidelines for living a healthy life:

  • Eat nutritious foods, choosing from a variety of vegetables, fruits and healthy proteins. It is said that cruciferous vegetables are especially good at protecting the liver.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Dont smoke and dont drink. Both tobacco and alcohol are bad for your liver.
  • Do things that help you cope with stress, like journaling, talking with others, meditating and doing yoga.
  • Avoid inhaling toxic fumes.

Reducing The Risk Of Hepatitis B

Simple steps that everyone can take to protect themselves against hepatitis B include:

  • Making sure you and your children are immunised this is the best protection.
  • Using condoms every time you have anal or vaginal sex with new partners until you both get a check-up .
  • Avoiding oral sex if you or your partner have herpes, ulcers or bleeding gums it is unlikely that you will contract hepatitis through oral sex unless blood is present.
  • Choosing to have any body piercing or tattooing done by an experienced practitioner who follows good sterilisation and hygiene practices, and who works at premises registered by the local council.
  • Wearing single-use gloves if you give someone first aid or need to clean up blood or body fluids.
  • Never sharing needles and syringes or other equipment , if you inject drugs. Always use sterile needles and syringes. These are available from needle and syringe programs and some pharmacists. Always wash your hands before and after injecting.

If you have hepatitis B:

If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor can give you treatment in some instances, which greatly reduces the risk of you becoming infected with hepatitis B.

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