Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver due to Hepatitis B virus (HBV). In some individuals the viral infection is acute and can be resolved with immediate medical attention, where as in some cases infection is chronic and lasts for months. Chronic hepatitis B may lead to conditions like liver cancer, liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
The extent of the problem
In India, around 4% of the population carry Hepatitis B virus. In some areas in the North-East, it can be as high as 12%. According to the WHO nearly 40 million Indians carry hepatitis B virus. It is 100 times more infectious than HIV. It spreads from mother to baby, through needles, blood transfusions and unprotected sex. Hepatitis B virus infection rarely produces symptoms until late in the illness. Therefore, most patients are unaware that they carry the virus. Most patients get detected incidentally, during a master health check-up, prior to blood donation or when one of their family members are diagnosed with hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B infection leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Worldwide, hepatitis B infection is the commonest cause of primary liver cancer.
Hepatitis B Symptoms:
Hepatitis B symptoms appear after 2 to 3 weeks of HBV infestation. Symptoms are more prominent in adults than in children. Some common hepatitis b symptoms include:
- Dark urine
- Stomach ache
- Vomiting nausea
- Jaundice and yellowish white part of the eye and body skin
- Body ache
Hepatitis B Causes:
The causes and effects of Hepatitis B has been established to be various, it generally spreads through exchanging bodily fluids like blood, semen and saliva, of an infected person. Some of the common hepatitis b causes include:
- Sexual intercourse with Hepatitis B infected person
- Sharing infected person’s needle and syringes
- Pregnant women infected with HBV passes it to her child
Risk Factors of Hepatitis B:
The most common risk factors of Hepatitis B include:
- Accidental blood infections are common in healthcare workers
- Sharing of syringes and needles
- Unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Chronic diabetic patients over 60 years and above
- Kidney patients
- Chronic liver patients
Types of Hepatitis B:
There are three major types of Hepatitis B disease, they are determined bypatient diagnosis and the duration and extent of infection. The main types include:
Acute Hepatitis B:
Acute HBV infection signs are not very serious if the infection is there in the patient for less than 2 to 3 weeks, once infection is there for six months, then it is said to be chronic. In Acute HBV infection there is no liver damage due to liver scarring and tumor cells.
Chronic Hepatitis B:
You have chronic HBV infection if virus is diagnosed in the blood sample for more than six months. There is liver damage and immediate medical attention is a must.
Autoimmune hepatitis is liver cell damage caused by body’s immune system. In this condition liver damage and liver cirrhosis are very common.
Hepatitis B Prevention:
You can effectively prevent Hepatitis B by taking vaccination as a precaution. A course of three vaccines is prescribed to pregnant women, children, adults, senior citizens and healthcare workers.
Some preventive measures include:
- Never share needles and syringes with others
- Makepersonal hygiene your first priority
- Wear protective attire and equipment when working in a healthcare setup and diagnostic laboratory.
- Never have unprotected sex
- Use medically approved disinfectants and hand washes in healthcare setups
Diagnosing Hepatitis B infection
Despite the lack of symptoms the Hepatitis B virus causes ongoing liver injury. However due to the large size of the liver and its ability to repair itself liver functions tests can be normal. Hepatitis B infection can only be diagnosed by a specific blood test. A patient diagnosed with hepatitis B infection, should get evaluated further to know how much virus they carry, how active the virus is and the amount of liver damage. Blood tests such as Liver function tests (LFT), Hepatitis B DNA, Hepatitis B e antigen and antibody status, and abdominal scan help in evaluation. Based on these tests, your hepatologist will make a decision regarding treatment. Not all patients with hepatitis B require treatment, but they certainly require regular follow up because the disease may progress so that treatment may be necessary at a later date and also, to screen for liver cancer.
Treatment of Hepatitis B
Suppression of the virus with treatment limits progression of liver disease to cirrhosis and prevents development of liver cancer. There are 2 types of treatment available for chronic hepatitis B infection. Pegylated interferon works by stimulating your genes to fight against the virus. The advantage of treatment with Peg-IFN is that the treatment consists of an injection given under the skin on a weekly basis for a year (finite therapy). IFN is more suitable for younger people who need not take long-term tablets, women at the child bearing age, patients with more inflammation and less scarring. Because, interferon does not act on the virus directly it does not cause resistance. Interferon related side effects are flu like symptoms, which usually occurs after the day of injection but settles in 1-2 days. Some patients may develop low white cell count, depression and thyroid problems. For these reasons’ patients on IFN get monitored every 1-4 weeks. Symptoms improve with subsequent injections. Response to treatment is assessed by means of blood tests.
Oral anti-viral drugs act directly to suppress viral replication. Lamivudine and adefovir are the older drugs. Newer generation drugs are Telbivudine, Entecavir and Tenofovir. The main difference between these two generation of drugs is the development of viral resistance which is extremely rare with newer drugs particularly Entecavir and Tenofovir. These drugs usually need to be taken for years and should not be stopped without your Hepatologist advice. These drugs are well tolerated, and side effects are rare.
Do all patients with hepatitis B need treatment?
Patients who are in the inactive carrier phase of the infection need not be treated with antiviral therapy. Your Hepatologist would know the phase of your disease from the blood tests and advise you accordingly. Even if no treatment is given, regular checkups with blood tests and scans is essential as the virus may become active and cause liver damage without any symptoms. This can only be detected by blood tests. Hence all patients with hepatitis B should undergo 6- monthly abdominal ultrasound and a blood test (AFP) to screen for liver cancer.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Universal immunization against hepatitis B is highly effective and is strongly recommended. It is especially necessary when a family member is detected to be hepatitis B positive. All family members of patients with hepatitis B should be screened for the virus. If they are negative, they should be vaccinated to prevent the viral infection.
WHY Rela Hospital
The Rela Hospital Advantage
Rela Hospital is one of the best hospitals for hepatitis b treatment in Chennai, India. Liver specialists, expert dieticians and world class medical care are available under one roof at Rela Hospital.
Rela Hospital’s is headed by Dr. Mohamed Rela, one of top specialist for hepatitis treatment in Chennai, India. Rela Hospital’s staff is dedicated for best treatment for hepatitis b in Chennai.
As Rela Hospital believes in privacy of its esteemed patient’s health issues, you may request for a patient referral or a feedback. Rela Hospital has treated international patients and has huge satisfied and happy patient community.
Patients have acknowledged in their testimonials that Rela Hospital has the best acute hepatitis b treatment in Chennai. Rela Hospital is dedicated to procure best and latest medicines for Chronic Hepatitis B treatment from all over the world. Rela Hospital’s Research and development wing is always adept to adopt latest liver drugs and hepatitis treatment guidelines as prescribed by WHA.
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