Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause serious and irreparable damages to the liver. It can be present in an individual without them being aware of it, therefore a person may go on unknowingly spreading the virus. Children and babies are especially at risk from the virus, particularly the chronic type. So, what is it and how can it be treated? Read on.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that travels through the blood stream and attacks the liver causing inflammation of the liver and scarring. Eventually, the illness can become chronic or long-term, and can cause cirirhosis of the liver or liver cancer, a life-threatening condition. Causes of hepatitis B Hepatetis B is a blood and fluid born virus, meaning that it can be transmitted to people through bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and semenal fluid. Unprotected sex and injecting drugs with shared needles are a big cause. A mother can easily pass the virus on to her newborn baby.
Symptoms of hepatitis B
The symptoms of hepatitis B can be invisible and the sufferer can be unaware that they have the illness. If a person does have symptoms, then they may feel flu-like, with aches, pains, diahorea, vomiting and weight loss as well as jaundice, which is indicated by a yellow appearance. Acute hepatitis B Many people, especially adults may never develop chronic hepatitis B. They may have the acute type and be completely unaware of it. Diagnosis is made by a blood test and the only treatment may be a healthy diet and being careful not to pass it on. The younger the sufferer is, the more likely it is that they will develop chronic hepatitis B.
Treatment and prevention
Chronic hepatitis B is treated in two main ways. Firstly, by inteferon injections, which are drugs that mimic cells in the liver. It also helps to slow down the multiplication of the virus, therefore reducing the effects of hepatitis B. The side effects can be quite severe, so it is not a long-term solution. Anti-viral medication is also used for treatment. These drugs work by supressing the production of further hepatitis B cells. The side effects include nausea, dizziness and flatulence.
If the individual has cirrohisis of the liver, then a liver transplant can be considered. This is a serious and risky operation and is only considered, if there is no other possibility.
Practicing safe sex and getting regular check-ups and blood work, can prevent the spread of hepatitis B.
If you are in a high risk group, such as health workers, a vaccine is available.