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Hepatitis B : Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevent

Sunday, July 15th 2012. | Blood System, Heart Health

Hepatitis B Definition

Hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver, which may be due to infection by the hepatitis virus. There are several types of hepatitis, the main ones are the hepatitis A, B and C.

Hepatitis B is one of the major infectious diseases. Approx. 5% of the world population is infected. Tiny amounts of blood are enough for the virus enters the body through small skin lesions or mucous membranes. The virus reaches high concentrations, particularly in the blood.

Hepatitis B Causes

Transmission of hepatitis is through contact with blood or other body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions) :

Primary mode of transmission: contact with blood

  • Unprotected intercourse with a person infected with hepatitis B.
  • Reuse of unsterilized needles (drug addiction).
  • Tattoo in unsterile conditions / piercing.
  • Transmission from mother to child during childbirth.
  • Health professional, police, nurses, social workers (contact with body fluids).

Increased risk of transmission:

  • Subjects living in the same household as the person infected with hepatitis B.
  • Use of toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors etc.. belonging to subjects infected with hepatitis.

Transmission rarely if :

  •      Kidney dialysis and blood transfusions (risk in Switzerland: low).
  •      Traveling to areas at risk (ask your doctor).

Within the “normal” population, HIV transmission is most often through unprotected sex.

Hepatitis B virus (img : hepatitisbviruspage.com)

Hepatitis B Disorders (symptoms)

The incubation period, ie the time interval between infection and the onset of symptoms is 1 to 6 months and depends on the amount of virus.

  • The disease course can vary
  • Nearly two-thirds of adults and most infants and young children show no symptoms.
  • The initial phase of the disease is characterized by nonspecific symptoms such as lack of appetite, aversion against certain foods, nausea and vomiting, muscle and joint pain and low-grade fever.
  • During the second phase, the symptoms of jaundice may occur: yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes and conjunctiva due to the passage of bile pigments from the blood into body tissues. Jaundice peaked after 1-2 weeks, which is usually followed by an improvement in symptoms.
  • Nearly 1% of adults die from acute liver failure.
  • The majority of adults (90%) with hepatitis B recover from the disease and are immune forever.
  • In about 5% to 10% of individuals infected with hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis develops. This can be completely asymptomatic (asymptomatic virus carriers) or create a series of more or less severe symptoms: fatigue, joint and muscle pain, tenderness occasionally below the ribcage on the right side. In a minority of these patients, liver fibrosis (cirrhosis) develops, which may be associated with liver failure or the occurrence of liver cancer.

Hepatitis B Examinations (Diagnosis)

  • History with consideration of current symptoms
  • Three blood tests can in principle be carried out: determination of viral antigens (viruses or viral proteins), determination of antibodies against the virus or identification of viral DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), namely the viral genetic material.
  • Liver function tests

Hepatitis B Patient (img : perridermatology.com)

Hepatitis B Treatment Options

Acute hepatitis B

  • Symptomatic treatment: bed rest, saving liver (alcoholic abstinence, low fat diet, avoid medications toxic to the liver in consultation with the attending physician).

Asymptomatic chronic hepatitis B (asymptomatic carriers)

  • Regular medical checks
  • Avoid drugs toxic to the liver (alcohol, hepatotoxic drugs).

Asymptomatic chronic hepatitis B

  • Without treatment, cirrhosis or liver cancer may develop. For this reason, it is necessary to appropriate treatment.

Medical Drugs

  • Virostatics: blocking the virus from multiplying in the body approx. 60% of patients respond favorably to such treatment.
  • Interferons: are administered subcutaneously, nearly a third of patients respond to treatment.


  • End-stage liver cirrhosis, liver transplantation alone is still possible.

Hepatitis B Possible Complications

  • Infection with hepatitis D can occur (VHD) in conjunction with the virus of hepatitis B. However, the hepatitis D virus can only multiply if the hepatitis B also increases. Concurrent infection with the hepatitis D is associated with an increased risk of liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • There is no basic treatment for hepatitis B. For this reason, the treatment is purely symptomatic and is based on bed rest, abstinence from alcohol or elimination of drugs toxic to the liver.
  • In case of chronic hepatitis B, asymptomatic carriers should be examined regularly by a doctor, since chronic hepatitis B may be complicated by cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Hepatitis B Preventive Measures

  • Vaccination against hepatitis B. Several vaccination regimens are possible depending on the patient’s age and the available vaccine.
  • The duration of immunity is not yet known, but experimental data suggest a lifelong immunity as long as vaccination is accompanied by adequate production of antibodies.
  • Using condoms during sex; sex with multiple partners increases the risk of infection.
  • The reuse of syringes is prohibited.
  • Do not exchange the small hygiene items (shaving kit, toothbrush, nail brush etc..) With infected people.
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