Hepatitis B: The Slow Killer
Hepatitis B is one of the deadliest diseases that affect the liver. Caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), it has become a global concern and can lead to both acute and chronic disorders. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 780, 000 people die every year due to Hepatitis B. The condition can even lead to liver cancer.
The magnanimity of the disease is reflected in the sheer number of people that fall prey to this condition, across the globe. However; the fact that it is preventable and can be prevented with vaccination, comes as a well needed respite. A vaccine, which is 95% effective, is available for hepatitis B since 1982. Read more about the prevention here.
How the virus is transferred
• Unprotected sex with an infected person
• Shared needles
• Unsterilized tattoos and piercings
• Sharing of toothbrush and razor with an infected person
• Hugging, kissing, sneezing
• Mothers may pass on the disease to their babies during pregnancy
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
The symptoms of Hepatitis B are usually seen approximately after six weeks to six months of infection. Some common symptoms include: tiredness, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, pain, loss of appetite etc. You can get detailed information on the numerous aspects and symptoms of the disease here.
Treatment has to start as soon as you see the symptoms. It is extremely important to get a lab test done to confirm Hepatitis B. Blood tests become an absolute necessity. It also helps to differentiate between chronic and acute levels of the disease. As far as the treatment is concerned, acute infection generally does not require treatment.
In some cases, which are often rare, infection may go on to cause life threatening damages. Patients that are at a risk of liver failure, should consider a liver transplant. Drug lamivudine, according to certain studies, is quite efficient in such cases. In case of a chronic infection with few signs and symptoms, medication is not required for the patient. Periodic blood tests determine the course of treatment that needs to be employed in such cases. Medication is prescribed in case the patient has a positive test for Hepatitis B e-antigen virus.
The aim or goal of the treatment, in case of a chronic infection, primarily is to reduce the complications associated with the liver. The treatment can be long and tiring and sometimes it may take decades to be completely treated. The medications in current use for chronic hepatitis B include the interferon and nucleoside/nucleotide analogues. New researches are also on their way as per this source.
People who have cirrhosis usually are in need of liver transplants, which is the only option left.
Along with these medications, the treatment of hepatitis B also needs certain lifestyle changes. There should be absolutely no sharing of equipment like needles and syringes, as these lead to a high risk of infection. Also, safe sex becomes a must. This is one area that needs maximum attention. Multiple sexual partners should be avoided at least during the course of treatment.
It is also advisable to keep learning more about the condition and stay connected with your friends and family. Take care of your liver, avoid alcohol and stay in touch with your doctor. More information about the condition can be read here.
WHO also organizes World Hepatitis Day on July 28 every year, to increase awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis. For more detailed information about Hepatitis B read this.