Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
May 6, 2021
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus—often referred to as HBV. It is one of the most serious, common liver infections in the world. The CDC reports that an estimated 257 million people around the world are living with hepatitis B. The medical term “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver.
When your liver becomes inflamed, its overall function could be impaired, and your liver could stop doing its job effectively. Hepatitis B can begin as a short-term infection, but could stay in the body, causing a life-long or chronic condition. Acute hepatitis B is the short-term version of hepatitis B that occurs within the first six months after exposure to the hepatitis B virus.
Over time, if the body is unable to clear the virus from its system, it leads to chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B can cause serious health problems such as liver damage, liver cancer, and in some cases, death.
Knowing about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of hepatitis B can help you possibly avoid contracting it or learn how to treat it. Keep reading to find out more about hepatitis B.
If you are interested in learning more about hepatitis B, getting tested, or exploring treatment options, the best way is to contact a doctor online for immediate care. PlushCare, our telehealth partner, was recently named by Forbes as a top startup of 2021, and has top-of-their-class physicians. Click here to make an appointment with an online doctor.
Many people infected with both acute and chronic hepatitis B do not experience any symptoms. Even if you are not exhibiting symptoms, you can still spread the virus to other people.
If someone infected, whether with acute or chronic hepatitis B, is experiencing symptoms, they may include:
Some symptoms can occur at about eight weeks after exposure, while others can occur up to five months after exposure. The average period between exposure and symptom development is 90 days. The length of time that symptoms last can vary anywhere from weeks to months, and there is no way to determine how long they will last.
Age plays a significant factor in the transmission of hepatitis B. If the virus is contracted at a younger age, there is a higher risk of developing chronic infection. The older a person gets, the less at risk they are to have hepatitis B develop past the acute stage. Most older children and adults infected with hepatitis B recover completely and do not develop a chronic infection.
In many cases, people are unaware of their infection, but according to an analysis by the CDC, “in 2018, a total of 3,322 cases of acute (short-term) hepatitis B were reported to CDC.” If someone is unaware of the infection, it then goes undiagnosed, and the CDC cannot count it. So the actual number of cases is likely to be much higher.
Everyone is at risk of being infected with the hepatitis B virus. However, people who are at higher risk are those in contact with someone who is infected, such as an infant born to an infected mother, or the partner of an infected person.
The hepatitis B virus is mostly spread through bodily fluids and blood that is infected. Someone can be infected through:
Hepatitis B is not usually spread through the sharing of food, hugging, sneezing, or similar basic contact with another person. The virus is found in blood, semen, and vaginal secretions.
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable virus. The hepatitis B vaccine is typically given in a three-dose series starting at birth. After completing the series, infants are protected throughout their life. Older children and adults can start the series at any time. There are currently two vaccine options.
Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by blood tests that check for HBV antibodies in the body. Early detection can enable someone to enjoy a long and healthy life.
Other ways to help protect yourself from contracting hepatitis B are by:
Call your healthcare provider immediately if you think you have recently been exposed or are experiencing any symptoms after a known exposure. You may be a candidate for hepatitis B immune globulin which can prevent a hepatitis B infection if given within the first 24 hours of exposure. If you or someone you know has been exposed, do not hesitate to take action and get tested or help as quickly as possible. If you have previously been infected, you are not able to get it again, so there is not a concern.
Suppose you have not previously been infected, or vaccinated at any point in your life. In that case, your healthcare provider can provide the hepatitis vaccine.
Acute hepatitis B is not treatable with medication and is usually treated like any other virus, with a diagnosis and lots of fluids and rest. In some cases, acute hepatitis B symptoms are more severe, and hospitalization is necessary to monitor the person infected.
There are some medications that people with chronic hepatitis B can take. Your doctor will discuss these options with you. These medications help with symptoms but do not lead to a cure, and they still have a risk of side effects. The best long-term treatment for people with chronic hepatitis B is to monitor their liver function, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet.
Other ways you can help protect your liver include:
Speaking to a doctor about hepatitis B treatment, lifestyle changes, and medication, can be enormously helpful. Talking to a doctor using telehealth is the quickest and easiest way to get the care you need. And our partners at PlushCare can provide all the help you need, including diagnosing, treating, and writing prescriptions, all online.
Click here to make an appointment to speak with a doctor at PlushCare.
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