Infection with Hepatitis B virus causes one of the most serious liver diseases. It results in the inflammation of the liver leading to cirrhosis besides other complications like liver cancer. Hepatitis B virus is one among the five viruses leading to medical condition called Viral Hepatitis (others are A, C, D, and E). Falling in the intermediate endemicity zone, India has around 40 million people suffering from this deadly infection(as per latest estimates).
Hepatitis B can cause both acute as well as chronic disease. While the acute hepatitis B infection lasts up to 6 months with or without symptoms, chronic hepatitis B follows if the infected person tests positively even after six months. Moreover, the risk of developing chronic hepatitis B is directly linked to the age of the patient.
Being a highly contagious disease, it spreads from one person to another, be it through infected blood or other bodily fluids. It can also be sexually transmitted from an infected person to the partner. However, it doesn’t spread via sneezing, coughing, sharing utensils or hugging an infected person.
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis B
The common symptoms of acute hepatitis B include fatigue, dark urine, loss of appetite, mild to high fever, abdominal pain, weakness, yellowing of the eyes and the skin, joint pain, nausea, vomiting etc. In case, you have any of the aforementioned symptoms and you don’t want to take the risk associated with them, it’s imperative to contact your best doctor as early as possible and get your doubts cleared.
Unfortunately, chronic hepatitis B is often asymptomatic till late stages. Symptoms develop once patient has extensive liver damage (advanced cirrhosis). The only way to diagnose it early is by screening patients with risk factors at asymptomatic stage.
Risk Factors of Hepatitis B
There are several risk factors associated with hepatitis B infection since it’s a highly contagious disease. Following persons are considered at high risk for hepatitis B:
- Unprotected intercourse with the person who is suffering from hepatitis B infection
- Those with family history of hepatitis B
- History of blood transfusions before 1990’s
Additionally, there are several groups of people who are at a greater risk of catching the infection. These include:
- healthcare personnel
- sex workers
- homosexual men
- drug addicts
Hepatitis B Complications If Left Untreated
Hepatitis B brings with it numerous health complications which may prove to be deadly if not treated in time. Some of these health complications are:
- Liver Cirrhosis: If you are suffering from hepatitis B, inflammation of the liver happens. If the inflammation prolongs, scarring of the liver follows. This leads to a condition called liver cirrhosis which severely impairs the functioning of the liver.
- Liver Cancer: If you are suffering from liver cirrhosis, you may also suffer from liver cancer. Cirrhosis is actually the pre-cancerous stage.
- Liver Failure: Liver failure happens when your liver gets damaged beyond repair and liver transplant becomes absolutely vital.
If you think you are at risk of getting hepatitis B or its symptoms are prominent, it’s high time you consult a doctor and get the requisite treatment.