Facts about Hepatitis B
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. Globally, there are over 400 million chronic carriers of hepatitis B. Of the 200,000 people who contract hepatitis B each year in the USA, 10-15,000 go on to develop a chronic form of the disease. Men are six times more likely than women to become chronic carriers of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) although the reasons for that are unclear.
Of the adults who get the Hepatitis B virus, 95 per cent clear the virus and do not go on to have the chronic form of the disease. Some people have few symptoms or none at all, so may not realise they have HBV or that they have had it. Many adults will clear the virus completely within 6 months. The good news is that the protective antibodies produced fighting the infection means that people who have had it will never have to worry about HBV again as they will be immune.
3 Types of Hepatitis B
1. Healthy chronic carrier of hepatitis B
2. Chronic infectious hepatitis B
3. Chronic mutant hepatitis B.
Does the type of hepatitis make a difference?
Healthy chronic carriers: are not infectious to others and although they may have a slightly higher risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer than the general population, they mostly live a normal life. The virus can become reactivated when their immune systems become suppressed, such as during treatment with immunosuppressant drugs for diseases like cancer, AIDS, with drugs such as steroids and sometimes during other severe illnesses.
Chronic Infectious Hepatitis B: In this type of hepatitis the person is highly infectious to others. They have very inflamed and damaged livers even when the person has few or no symptoms. People with this type of hepatitis B are more likely to have a progressive disease leading to cirrhosis. Only 5% to 10% have a spontaneous remission, become non infectious to others and sustain no further or minimal liver damage, although sometimes reactivation of the virus occurs.
Chronic Mutant Hepatitis B: In this type the person has a mutant strain, a permanent alteration of the hepatitis B viruss genetic makeup. They have the potential to be infectious to others and it is thought to be more resistive to treatment than the other forms of the disease.
How do you get Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contaminated blood, sweat, tears, saliva, semen, saliva, vaginal secretions, menstrual blood and breast milk. Transmission can occur when using the same syringe as an infected person, from blood transfusions prior to 1975 (now screened in most countries), having tattoos or body piercing, from mother to child during childbirth, during medical procedures, occupational exposure, during sexual intercourse. Having Hepatitis B does not necessarily mean that he or she is infectious to other people, only some people with HBV are contagious.
There are many ways people may discover they have hepatitis. Because there are sometimes so few specific symptoms beyond, say, fatigue, it may only be diagnosed when blood tests are carried out , sometimes for unrelated reasons, i.e. prior to giving blood donations, medicals for insurance purposes, general health checks or following work related injuries.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Acute Hepatitis B Symptoms
In its severe form symptoms can make the person feel extremely ill. Other people think they have flu or experience no symptoms. They include some or all of the following; jaundice, fever, abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dark, coca-cola coloured urine, light coloured stools, muscle and joint pains, rash. The liver may be enlarged and tender
Signs and symptoms of chronic hepatitis
Although, there again, signs and symptoms can vary a lot, many people will be unaware that anything profound is wrong with them, others may have vague symptoms. These may include mild or restless fatigue, jaundice, and enlarged liver.
Unfortunately if chronic hepatitis is not cleared by the body or is not successfully treated and cured then liver disease or liver failure may result.