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Hepatitis B

Definition of Hepatitis

The term "hepato" refers to the liver and "itis" refers to "inflammation of". The term, hepatitis, therefore, means inflammation of the liver. The terms acute and chronic hepatitis are defined mainly by the duration of the inflammation. Acute hepatitis is used to describe any form of liver inflammation of less than six (6) months duration, whereas chronic refers to a process lasting longer than this.

Definition of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is usually spread by intimate sexual contact or exposure to infected body fluids, such as through intravenous drug use. Hepatitis B is frequently transmitted from an infected mother to the newborn, unless the baby receives proper vaccination at birth. Hepatitis B can cause chronic hepatitis in seven percent (7%) of infected adults. Some individuals carry the virus in their bodies without significant liver damage, while others eventually develop cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Long term monitoring of liver function is very important if one has chronic hepatitis B. Several medications are now available for certain individuals with chronic hepatitis B.

Acute Hepatitis B

Diagnosis

Many of these infected persons do not have any symptoms, such as jaundice, to alert them of their infection. History and physical examinations and blood tests can usually diagnose asymptomatic forms of hepatitis. Sometimes a liver biopsy may be required.

Treatment

The treatment now available for hepatitis C is a medication called Interferon. There are different types of interferons that the body makes in response to different infections. The type of interferon used to treat hepatitis C is given by subcutaneous (beneath the skin) injection. Not all persons are candidates for treatment and not all persons will respond to treatment. Common side effects of this treatment include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea and mood changes.

Ribavirin is another medication used to treat hepatitis C in combination with interferon. It may cause hemolytic anemia that results from a breakdown of red blood cells. A patient's blood count is monitored during treatment. Serious anemias occur in a small percent of cases.

Hepatitis B Carriers

Chronic hepatitis B is a life-long liver disease caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Some people who get infected remain of the virus. They stay infected for life, and can spread HBV to others. If you have had other types of hepatitis, such as hepatitis A or hepatitis C, you can still get hepatitis B.
vi. Chronic Hepatitis B: When a person is first infected with Hepatitis B this is called an acute infection. Most adults can fight off virus, if the virus stays in liver and blood for greater than 6 months this can be called a chronic infection. This can lead to other liver diseases.

Diagnosis

History and physical examination and blood tests can usually diagnose asymptomatic forms of hepatitis. Sometimes a liver biopsy may be required.

Treatment

  1. Medications: The treatment now available for hepatitis C is a medication called Interferon. There are different types of interferons that the body makes in response to different infections. The type of interferon used to treat hepatitis C is given by subcutaneous (beneath the skin) injection. Not all persons are candidates for treatment and not all persons will respond to treatment. Common side effects of this treatment include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea and mood changes.

    Ribavirin is another medication used to treat hepatitis C in combination with interferon. It may cause hemolytic anemia that results from a breakdown of red blood cells. A patient's blood count is monitored during treatment. Serious anemias occur in a small percent of cases.
  2. Liver Transplantation: Patients are examined by a team of specialist to determine if a liver transplant is appropriate and likely to succeed. If so they are placed on a national transplant waiting list. This waiting list is prioritized by the sickest people and those who meet transplant criteria.
    ix. Prevention and Vaccination; Hepatitis B can be spread through direct blood contact, unprotected sex, and contact with infected bodily fluids. Protect yourself by avoiding unprotected sex, do not share razors, needles nail clippers, toothbrushes or earrings. Make sure to keep open sores and cuts covered. Clean up any blood spill with bleach and water (one part bleach to 9 parts water) and use gloves during clean up. Hepatitis is not spread by casual contact, by hugging, sneezing or coughing. There is a safe effective vaccine for the prevention of Hepatitis obtained through a series of 3 injections.  These injections help the body develop immunity to Hepatitis.

Summary

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus which attacks the liver of those infected. It is transmitted through blood and body fluids, unprotected sex, shared or reused needles and from an infected mother to her unborn child. There are vaccines available for the prevention of Hepatitis B for those who have not been infected and medications on the market for the treatment of Chronic Hepatitis B. 

Organizations

  1. American Gastroenterological Association - www.gastro.com
  2. American College of Gastroenterology - www.acg.gi.org
  3. American Liver Foundation - www.liverfoundation.org

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