If you are unsure about your Hepatitis B status, the easiest way to learn is to take an STD test. This test will also help outline the best course of treatment.

According to the CDC, nearly 95% of the adults affected with an acute hepatitis B infection will go  onto recover without any specifically targeted treatment. The recommended test to detect hepatitis B is diagnosed by a blood test and a liver biopsy to confirm. Specifically, the Hepatitis B Surface Antigen (HBsAg) test is helpful in detecting the virus in order to take preventative measures.4

Keeping up to date with liver tests if diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B is key to maintaining overall health. Catching the diagnosis early can be helpful in monitoring your overall liver health and the prescription of antiviral drugs that help to slow down the progress of the disease.

Hepatitis B Treatment

Hepatitis B treatment takes different courses of action for acute and chronic cases. The only treatment for acute cases is supportive, or is meant to treat the symptoms until either the infection clears up on its own or becomes chronic.

The treatment of chronic hepatitis varies based on the severity of the symptoms. Chronic patients may be treated with shots of  interferon and peginterferon and may be prescribed a combination of adefovir, entecavir, lamivudine, telbivudine and tenofovir orally.4 In the event that chronic hepatitis contributes to or causes liver failure (also known as fulminant hepatitis) or late-stage cirrhosis, the most effective treatment is a liver transplant.

Hepatitis B Overview

Hepatitis B is a condition referring to an infection by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). According to the CDC, this viral infection has a symptom latency period in between six weeks and six months. Though incurable, this sexually transmitted disease is manageable with medicine. It can also be protected against by getting a vaccine prior to exposure and can be diagnosed with an STD test.1

Simply, the term “hepatitis” refers to an inflammation of the liver. There are different types of hepatitis infections, including A, C, D and E. Hepatitis B, C and D are commonly transmitted through blood or bodily fluids and sharing needles, where A and E are often caused by food and drink contaminated with the virus. Additionally, contracting hepatitis D is contingent upon previously infection with the hepatitis B virus.

The Hepatitis B Foundation shares that nearly 1 out of 20 Americans, or 12 million Americans, are affected by the disease. Cases of Hepatitis B are classified as acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis is a singular infection caused by the HBV virus that can last between six weeks and six months, and the chronic version is a protracted continuation of the HBV infection.2 Hepatitis B & C are currently the most commonly occurring chronic diseases today.3 As with other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B can be be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth. Expectant mothers should get tested, vaccinated, or vaccinate their newborn to avoid the chance spreading infection.

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Hepatitis B Symptoms

Hepatitis B symptoms are flu-like in nature. There is an incubation period associated with the disease, meaning from the point of infection, it may take six weeks to six months for symptoms to become noticeable.1 Since hepatitis is an infection of the liver, men and women experience similar symptoms. If you’ve been exposed to Hepatitis B, visit the emergency room or urgent care facility to receive preventive treatment.

Common indicators of hepatitis B infection include4:

  • Fatigue
  • Stomach Pain, Nausea and Vomiting
  • Muscle Soreness
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Fever
  • Loss of Appetite

Acute and Chronic Hepatitis B
The above symptoms indicate the onset of an HBV infection. The severity of the initial virus and whether or not it clears up on its own or with medication to control the symptoms is the factor in determining whether a specific case is chronic or acute. According to the CDC, an acute infection lasts for six months, and may or may not need medical intervention and can clear up on its own. If that is the case, the patient will build up antibodies affecting against the next HBV infection, should it occur. For others, the acute infection becomes a chronic infection, introducing other complications of that are more severe, including liver failure. The probability of an acute infection of HBV becoming chronic is about 25-30%, the CDC reports. Nearly 90% of hepatitis B cases transmitted through childbirth are chronic, which makes it imperative to get tested or vaccinated prior to delivery or to have newborns vaccinated at birth.5

Call a physician as soon as possible if you are experiencing a consistently high- or low- grade fever, your flu-like symptoms feel unmanageable, or you are concerned that this could be a hepatitis B infection.

If you ever experience acute physical pain, do not call your physician and head the ER. If there are emergent life-threatening symptoms, go immediately to the emergency room or urgent care facility.

1 CDC – Viral Hepatitis – Hepatitis B Information
2 Pubmed Health – Hepatitis B
3 Hepatitis B Statistics – Hepatitis B Foundation
4 What I need to know about Hepatitis B, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
5 When Someone Close To You Has Chronic Hepatitis B – CDC Pamphlet

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