Contributed by -Healthians Team

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It’s a condition that can cause some serious damage to the liver if not taken care of on time. It’s also a condition that can be prevented in the first place if proper precautions are taken. Unfortunately, due to lack of awareness, the condition often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. It is estimated that 40 million Indians are infected with the hepatitis B virus. Since with early detection ugly complications can be prevented, it is essential for you to know all about hepatitis B infection to stay safe.

Hepatitis B infection

Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It affects your liver and can lead to liver failure, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer if not treated on time. The condition can be acute wherein it resolves within 6 months, or it can be chronic where it lasts for more than 6 months. In adults, the condition is usually acute and the immunity created against the virus lasts for a lifetime. But if you get it at birth, it’s unlikely to go away. 


Hepatitis B symptoms - Healthians

Hepatitis B symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis B don’t usually appear unless it has progressed to the advanced stage. But whenever they do, they include – 

  • Jaundice
  • Light-coloured stool
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue 
  • Orange or brown colour urine
[Also read – Hepatitis A- Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment]

Hepatitis B causes and risk factors

Hepatitis B is caused when you come in contact with the contaminated blood, semen or other bodily fluids from a person infected with the virus. The infected person can unknowingly spread the virus because symptoms don’t usually appear during the initial stage. Some of the ways through which hepatitis B can spread are:

  • Having unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Sharing needles and syringes contaminated with the blood
  • Pregnant infected mother can pass the virus to their baby at the time of birth
  • Healthcare workers are at increased risk because they often come in contact with human blood which may be contaminated

Hepatitis B doesn’t spread through coughing, sneezing, sharing food or water or by sharing utensils.  


Hepatitis B diagnosis

The diagnosis of hepatitis B infection is made after performing certain blood tests. If by looking at your symptoms, the doctor suspects hepatitis B infection, he/she may order the following tests to confirm the diagnosis – 

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen and antibody (HBsAg) – Antigens are proteins on the hepatitis B virus. And antibodies are proteins made by the immune system between 1 to 10 weeks after exposure. In acute infection, they vanish after 4 to 6 months. If they persist after 6 months, then the diagnosis of chronic hepatitis B infection is made. 
  • Hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) – This protein shows up after the HBsAg disappears. You get life long immunity against hepatitis B infection because of anti-HBs.


Hepatitis B treatment - Healthians

Hepatitis B treatment

As a part of hepatitis B treatment, your doctor might give you hepatitis B immune globulin shot. This protein boosts the body’s ability to fight off the infection.

Usually, bed rest and certain drugs are prescribed to help you get better faster. You may also be asked to give up things like alcohol that may hurt the liver. 

In the case of chronic infection, regular tests may be performed to keep an eye on liver health.

[Also read – Hepatitis C – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatment]

Hepatitis B complications

Untreated hepatitis B can lead to severe liver damage in the long run. Complications associated with hepatitis B infection include – 

  • Liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver failure
  • Hepatitis D infection


How can hepatitis B be prevented?

Prevention is always better than cure. In the case of hepatitis B prevention, you can take care of the following points – 

  • Babies should be vaccinated within 24 hours of the birth
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis B if you haven’t already
  • Have protected sex
  • Always keep cuts and wounds covered
  • Don’t share personal items like a razor, toothbrush, nail cutters, etc.
  • Use sterilized instruments for tattooing, manicure, or pedicure

If at any point you think that you are at the risk of hepatitis B infection or start to notice above-mentioned symptoms, then consult with a doctor without any delay and get tested for hepatitis B infection to confirm or rule out the infection.

Take the Hepatitis B test