Health and MedicineDiseasesHepatitis B: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatment

Hepatitis B: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatment

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Find out what its symptoms are, how it is transmitted and how it is treated.

Although hepatitis is considered one of the most serious liver infections, especially as it is a chronic condition without cure that can progress to more serious stages (such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer),  hepatitis B  it is also another  serious liver infection.

This time, it is an infection caused by  the hepatitis B virus, also known medically as HBV. Although it does not tend to be a chronic condition, for some people it can become chronic, which will ultimately increase the risk of other more serious and serious diseases.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver (that is, a liver infection caused by a virus), caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Although it is an infection that can be treated and can be prevented by administering the vaccine, according to the WHO it is a “life-threatening liver infection”, especially when it tends to become chronic.

In fact,  there is no cure if you already have hepatitis B, although it is true that, in most cases, people infected with this virus tend to recover completely, even when they suffer from severe or very serious symptoms.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B:

First of all, we must bear in mind that  the first symptoms of hepatitis B tend to appear between 1 to 4 months after infection. However, cases have been observed in which signs or symptoms appear as little as two weeks after infection.

The average incubation period for this virus is estimated to be approximately 75 days, although it can range from 30 to 180 days. In this sense,  the hepatitis B virus can be detected between 30 to 60 days after infection, and it is capable of surviving at least 7 days outside the organism of the infected person.

And what are those symptoms? The most common are the following:

  • Abdominal pain and abdominal discomfort.
  • Fever and joint pain.
  • Dark colored urine.
  • Loss of appetite, coupled with nausea and vomiting.
  • Jaundice (the skin and whites of the eye turn yellow).
  • Fatigue, feeling chronically tired, and weak.

How is it spread and what are its causes?

We must bear in mind that the hepatitis B virus is found fundamentally and mainly in the blood, although we also find it – to a lesser extent – in saliva, semen and other body fluids.

And how is the hepatitis B virus spread? Through direct contact with infected body fluids, either from a needle stick or sexually (that is, through sexual contact with an infected person).

In addition, the virus is easily transmitted from mother to child during the time of delivery (medically known as  perinatal transmission). In these cases, chronic infection is very common in infants infected before 5 years of age. Infection from an infected child to a healthy child is also common during the first 5 years of life, if it comes into contact with infected blood.

As we can see, the hepatitis B virus is not spread through contaminated food or water, as is the case with the hepatitis A virus.

How is it treated?

When hepatitis B infection is in its acute phase, there is no specific medical treatment, although the World Health Organization recommends treatment with oral medications such as entecavir or tenofovir, as they are the most powerful to suppress this virus.

However, in most infected people, medical treatment is unable to cure the infection, but rather suppresses the replication of the virus. For this reason, medical treatment must be continued throughout life.

If the infection becomes chronic, it can be treated with medications using oral antiviral agents, with the aim of slowing the infection from becoming more severe, such as leading to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

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