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Hepatitis B: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Oct 31, 2023

Hepatitis B: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Most cases of hepatitis B are acute, or short-term; they typically last fewer than six months. On the other hand, some people endure a chronic infection, meaning it lasts longer than six months. The risk of liver cancer, liver failure, and liver cirrhosis a condition that permanently scars the liver is increased by persistent hepatitis B.

For most adults with hepatitis B, recovery is complete even in cases of severe symptoms. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to hepatitis B chronic infection. This is what we call a chronic infection.

Vaccination can prevent hepatitis B, but once it's contracted, there's no cure. If you are infected, there are things you should do.

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Causes Of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B infection is brought on by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Transfusions of blood, semen, or other body fluids can spread the virus to other people. It does not spread by sneezing or coughing.

Typical routes via which HBV is spread include:

  • Sexual Contact: Unprotected sexual contact with an infected individual increases your risk of contracting hepatitis B. You could get infected with the virus if the person's vaginal secretions, blood, saliva, or semen enter your body.
  • Contaminated needles: HBV can be easily spread by contaminated needles and syringes that contain infectious blood. The risk of acquiring hepatitis B is high when sharing IV drug accessories.
  • Hepatitis B is a disease that can spread from mother to child and should worry medical practitioners and anybody else who comes into contact with human blood. Pregnant women who test positive for HBV may pass the virus to their fetuses during childbirth. Nonetheless, immunizations can almost always shield a newborn from infection. Speak with your healthcare provider about getting tested for hepatitis B if you are pregnant or would like to become pregnant.

Symptoms Of Hepatitis B

The symptoms of acute hepatitis B can range from mild to severe. They frequently appear one to four months after infection, though you may see them as early as two weeks after infection. Some people usually young children may not even show symptoms.

Hepatitis B signs and indicators could include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Laziness and fatigue
  • Jaundice, also known as yellowing of the skin and eye whites

Related: Hepatitis C : Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Types Of Hepatitis B

Additionally, infections with hepatitis B may be acute or transient. Alternatively, it could be persistent or long-lasting.

  • Acute Hepatitis B: B-virus infections that are acute rarely last longer than six months. Your immune system should be able to remove acute hepatitis B from your body, therefore you should recover in a few months. Although chronic infection is rare, the majority of adults with hepatitis B have an acute infection.
  • Chronic hepatitis B: This infection lasts for six months or more. It continues because your immune system cannot get rid of the infection. Liver cancer and cirrhosis are two potentially fatal diseases that can arise from a lifetime chronic hepatitis B infection. Long-term hepatitis B sufferers sometimes don't even exhibit any symptoms. Some people may have mild symptoms of acute hepatitis along with ongoing fatigue. The risk of contracting a chronic hepatitis B infection rises with age, particularly in young children under five. A persistent infection may take decades to diagnose before a person gets serious liver disease.

Risk factors Of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be spread by coming into contact with an infected person's blood, semen, or other body fluids. Your chance of contracting hepatitis B is higher if you:

  • Have unprotected sex with more than one partner or with a person who is HBV-positive.
  • When administering an IV drug, swap out the needles.
  • Live together with someone who has a chronic HBV infection
  • Mother with the hep B infection gives birth to a child
  • Have a work where you come into contact with blood
  • Travel to regions with a high rate of HBV infection, such as Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Eastern Europe

Diagnosis Of Hepatitis B

Your healthcare provider will examine you to look for signs of liver impairment, such as yellowing skin or stomach pain. The diagnosis of hepatitis B or its consequences can be made with the following tests:

  • Blood: Blood testing can reveal your body's symptoms and determine if your hepatitis B infection is acute or persistent. A simple blood test can also determine whether you're immune to the sickness.
  • Liver ultrasound imaging: One kind of ultrasonography that can be used to gauge liver damage is transient elastography.
  • Liver Biopsy: Your healthcare provider may take a small sample of your liver to test for liver disease. This is known as a liver biopsy. Your physician will puncture it with a little needle.

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Treatment Of Hepatitis B

Treatment to prevent acquiring hepatitis B after exposure

If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, get in touch with your doctor immediately. Finding out if you have had a hepatitis B vaccination is important. Your healthcare provider will need to know when and how you were exposed.

An injection of the antibody immunoglobulin may help prevent hepatitis B infection if given within 24 hours of viral contact. Since this drug only provides temporary protection, if you have never received the hepatitis B vaccine, you should obtain it in addition to this medication.

Treatment for acute hepatitis B infection

If your doctor determines that your hepatitis B infection is acute that is, that it is temporary and will go away on its own you may not need treatment. Your doctor may instead recommend rest, a nutritious diet, lots of fluids, and close monitoring as your body battles the infection. In severe cases, antiviral drugs or a hospital stay are necessary to prevent repercussions.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B infection

Most people who have a chronic hepatitis B infection need to be treated for the rest of their lives. Several factors influence the decision to start therapy, including:

If you have other viral infections, such as HIV or hepatitis C, if you are taking medicine, or if you are ill, the virus may be causing cirrhosis or inflammation and scarring of the liver. Treatment reduces the risk of liver disease and prevents you from spreading the infection to others.

Options for long-term hepatitis B treatment include:

  • Antiviral Medications: Taking antiviral drugs, such as entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread), lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera), and telbivudine, can slow down the virus's capacity to damage your liver. These drugs are consumed orally. Your doctor may recommend taking one of these medications in addition to interferon or either by itself to improve treatment response.
  • Interferon injections, in synthetic form to fight infection: It is mostly used for young people with hepatitis B who would rather not have long-term treatment or for women who might want to get pregnant in a few years after completing a short course of medication. Women should use contraception while on interferon treatment. Interferon use during pregnancy is not recommended. Some side effects include depression, dyspnea, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Liver transplant: If there is considerable damage to your liver, you may be eligible for a liver transplant. During a liver transplant, the surgeon takes your sick liver and replaces it with a healthy liver.
  • The majority of transplanted livers come from deceased donors, however, a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.
  • Additional drugs to treat hepatitis B are being developed.

Prevention Of Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B vaccination is typically given as two injections separated one month apart or as three or four shots spread out over six months, depending on the vaccine. It is not possible to get hepatitis B by immunization. Adults between the ages of 19 and 59 who do not have a medical condition that prevents them from taking the hepatitis B vaccine are advised by the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The hepatitis B vaccine is also strongly recommended for:

  • Newborns
  • Teens and young adults who did not receive vaccinations from birth
  • People who work in developmentally challenged people's centers or live there
  • People who live with a carrier of hepatitis B
  • Emergency responders, medical professionals, and other individuals who come into contact with blood
  • Anyone having a sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV
  • Men who have affairs with other men
  • People who have several sexual relationships
  • Partners having sex with a patient who has hepatitis B
  • People who share needles and syringes or inject illegal drugs
  • those who have chronic liver disease
  • Patients with end-stage renal disease
  • Travelers who intend to go to a place in the world where hepatitis B infection is common

Also Read: Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP): Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Complications Of Hepatitis B

A persistent HBV infection might cause serious negative effects such as:

  • Liver cirrhosis, or scarring: The inflammation brought on by a hepatitis B infection can result in cirrhosis, or severe liver scarring, which can impair the liver's ability to function.
  • Liver cancer: For those with a chronic hepatitis B infection, the risk of liver cancer is elevated.
  • Diseases of the liver: A medical condition known as acute liver failure occurs when the liver ceases to function normally. A liver transplant is the sole option for survival in the situation.
  • Reactivation of the hepatitis B virus: People who have chronic hepatitis B, which suppresses their immune system, are frequently reactivated by the hepatitis B virus. This could lead to serious damage or liver failure. Patients undergoing immunosuppressive treatments, such as high-dose corticosteroids or chemotherapy, fall under this category. Before using these medications, you ought to get tested for hepatitis B. If your hepatitis B test is positive, you should consult a hepatologist (a specialist in the liver) before starting any therapies.
  • Other situations: Chronic hepatitis B patients may develop renal damage or inflammatory blood vessels.

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