Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that is spread through contact with blood and bodily fluid. Many people do not develop obvious symptoms. However, if they do develop symptoms, they usually appear 2-3 months after exposure. More than 90% of healthy adults who are infected with Hepatitis B recover naturally from the virus within a year. However, acute Hepatitis B can develop into a chronic (long-term) condition and potentially cause complications such as liver damage.

Symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, a fever, and general aches and pains
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling and being sick
  • diarrhoea
  • tummy (abdominal) pain
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

How can I get it?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that is transmitted through close physical contact. The virus is found in blood and bodily fluids, so it can be spread in several different ways, including through unprotected sexual contact and sharing needles for intravenous drug use, but also through improperly sterilized tattoo, body piercing or dental equipment. Women with Hepatitis B can also transmit the infection to their baby through childbirth.

What are the risk factors?

Hepatitis B can be spread through contact with the blood or bodily fluids of people who have Hepatitis B. This is more common in parts of the world where Hepatitis B infection is more common. Risk factors include:

  • having unprotected sex
  • sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia
  • getting a tattoo or piercing with equipment that has not been properly sterilized
  • people born or brought up in a country where Hepatitis B infection is common
  • close contact with a friend or family member who has chronic Hepatitis B

What are the symptoms?

Many people with Hepatitis B infection will not experience any symptoms. However, the virus can still be passed on to others, so it is important for people to get tested if they suspect they might have Hepatitis B. Symptoms of Hepatitis B include:

  • tiredness
  • general aches and pains
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling and being sick
  • diarrhoea
  • tummy (abdominal) pain
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • dark urine and pale, grey-coloured faeces

If chlamydia is left untreated, it can spread to the womb and cause a serious condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is a major cause of ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

in adults usually pass within 1-3 months. This is acute Hepatitis and usually clears up on its own.

If the symptoms persist past 6 months, this is chronic Hepatitis B and requires more long-term monitoring and intervention. Chronic Hepatitis B is more common among children who become infected than among adults (<5% of otherwise healthy persons who are infected as adults will develop chronic infection)

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Diagnosis

A blood test is used to test for Hepatitis B. Many people do not exhibit any symptoms, so it is important to get tested if you think that you may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, in order to prevent the spread of Hepatitis B to other individuals.

It is impossible to tell from symptoms alone whether it is Hepatitis B or another virus such as the potentially more serious Hepatitis C. Therefore, it is important to get tested to make sure you are receiving appropriate medical care.

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Treatment

Treatment for Hepatitis B depends on how long you’ve been infected for. If you have recently been exposed to the virus, emergency medical treatment can prevent you from being infected. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if this is the case.

If you have had Hepatitis B for only a few weeks or months, you may only receive treatment to alleviate the symptoms while the body fights the virus. As with any illness, it is a good idea to get lots of rest to allow the body to heal. Most people recover within a few months, but it is a good idea to get regular blood tests to monitor the infection.

If you have had the infection for more than 6 months, then the infection has progressed to chronic (long-term) Hepatitis B infection, and doctors may prescribe medication to keep the infection under control and prevent liver damage. These drugs help to give the body and advantage in fighting the virus, but won’t necessarily cure the infection and some patients may require ongoing treatment.

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