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Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. In some cases, the infection lasts for more than 6 months leading to chronic hepatitis B that increases the risk of developing other serious complications such as liver failure or liver cirrhosis. Infants and children are more prone to chronic hepatitis B infection. A vaccine for hepatitis B is available that helps with the prevention.
Symptoms of hepatitis B ranges from moderate to severe, most common of which include:
- Yellowing of the skin and the eyes ( indicative of jaundice)
- Pain in the joints
- Abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark urine
The causative virus hepatitis B is transmitted through blood, semen or other body fluids. Most common transmission methods include:
Sexual contact: Unprotected sex with an infected person can transmit the disease through the blood, semen, vaginal secretions or saliva.
Sharing of needles: The virus is transmitted through contaminated syringe needles. Sharing intravenous (IV) drug with other individuals with hepatitis B puts you at high risk of contracting the disease.
Mother to child: The virus can pass on to the babies during childbirth if the mother is infected. However, the transmission of the infection can be prevented if the baby is vaccinated against the virus
The most common mode of transmission of the disease is through contact with blood, semen or other body fluids from a partner with the disease.
Risk factors include:
Unprotected sex with multiple partners
IV drug abuse
Infants born to an infected mother
Chronic Hepatitis B infection can result in severe complications, such as:
Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis): Extensive liver scarring can occur because of the inflammation linked with a hepatitis B. This might impair the liver’s ability to function.
Liver failure: Chronic hepatitis B infection might cause an acute liver failure. In such cases, a liver transplant is necessary to sustain life.
Liver cancer: Chronic hepatitis B infection increases the risk of liver cancer.
Other conditions: Chronic hepatitis B might lead to other health complications such as kidney disease or anemia.
MBBS, Diab (Fellow)