Are you wondering if you are at risk of getting hepatitis B? Are you concerned that you might have been exposed to HBV? This article covers everything you need to know about hepatitis B, from symptoms and risk factors of hepatitis B to treatments and ways to protect yourself from the virus.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection that inflames the liver. It is caused by exposure to HBV, short for the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can spread through blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. It can also be spread from mother to baby at birth.
Many people do not experience symptoms from hepatitis B and recover without complications. However, hepatitis B can develop into chronic hepatitis B, a lifelong illness that causes serious health complications.
There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, and getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against hepatitis B. Most people get the hepatitis B vaccination as infants. If you were not vaccinated as a child, it is never too late to get the vaccine.
What Is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis B?
Acute hepatitis B occurs within six months of exposure to the hepatitis B virus. Symptoms can vary greatly. Some people with acute hepatitis have no symptoms, while others require hospitalization.
In some cases, acute hepatitis B can lead to chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B lasts a lifetime and can cause serious health complications such as liver damage and cancer. In severe cases, it can be fatal.
Your risk of developing chronic hepatitis B depends on when you were infected by the disease. People who are infected with hepatitis B as adults do not typically develop chronic hepatitis B. Children who are infected with hepatitis B before six years of age are most at risk of developing chronic hepatitis B later in life.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Symptoms associated with acute hepatitis B include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach issues, including pain, nausea, and vomiting
- Dark urine
Symptoms typically occur within three to six months after exposure. They can last for several weeks or months. Many people do not experience symptoms.
How Do You Get Infected With Hepatitis B?
If you are unvaccinated, you can become infected with hepatitis B by coming into contact with the hepatitis B virus. The virus can be spread through semen, blood, or other bodily fluids. A mother who has hepatitis B can also give it to her baby. Other situations that can lead to the spread of hepatitis B include:
- Sharing needles or syringes used for drug preparation
- Sharing items like razors or toothbrushes with someone who has hepatitis B
- Having sex with someone who has hepatitis B
- Being exposed to open sores or the blood of someone who has hepatitis B
You can not get infected with hepatitis B more than once. If you have ever had acute hepatitis B, you are considered immune from the disease. However, you should get tested to confirm this.
How Do You Test for Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B rarely causes symptoms, so a test may be the only way to determine if you have the infection. There are various blood tests for hepatitis B, and each can evaluate different things, including:
- Whether you are immune to hepatitis B through vaccination or past infection
- Whether you have acute or chronic hepatitis B
- Whether you are likely to transmit hepatitis B to other people
If you are concerned about hepatitis B and wish to be tested, ask your healthcare provider which test is best for you.
How Do You Treat Hepatitis B?
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Mild symptoms can be treated with fluids and rest. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required. Certain medications can treat chronic hepatitis B, although they are only used for some cases. These medications may have to be taken long term as there is no cure for hepatitis B.
Who Is Most At Risk of Getting Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is spread through blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. Due to this, people who are at a higher risk of getting hepatitis B include:
- People who have multiple sexual partners
- People who have a sexual partner with hepatitis B
- Men who have intercourse with men
- People who have another sexually transmitted disease
- People who inject drugs
- People who are exposed to blood or bodily fluids, such as healthcare workers
- People who travel to countries where hepatitis B is prevalent
- People who are in prison
Children under six are most at risk of developing chronic hepatitis B if infected. The chances of hepatitis B becoming chronic decreases as you age. Vaccinating children between 6 to 18 months of age can prevent them from getting hepatitis B.
How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis B?
The most effective way to protect yourself from hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. Anyone under the age of 60 should get vaccinated. Those over 60 with risk factors for hepatitis B should also get vaccinated. You must get all of the required shots for full protection.
You can prevent getting hepatitis B by practicing safe sex and getting tested for STDs regularly. You should also never share needles or other items that can spread STDs.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by exposure to the hepatitis B virus. It does not always cause symptoms, which means you can have hepatitis B without knowing it. Hepatitis B can become chronic and lead to serious health complications, including death. The younger you become infected with hepatitis B, the higher your chances of developing chronic hepatitis B are. A hepatitis B vaccine is available and is the best way to prevent getting the disease.