Hepatitis B


    Definition

    Hepatitis B is a contagious, acute disease of the liver that may become chronic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 43,000 people contracted hepatitis B in the United States in 2007, although the number of reported cases is much lower because some people do not show symptoms.

    There are an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million chronic cases in the United States. Globally, there are about 360 million chronically infected people, and as many as 626,000 people die of hepatitis B every year.

    Hepatitis B infection has dropped significantly since 1991, but remains an area of concern for the African American population.

    • In 2007, non-Hispanic Blacks were 1.6 times as likely to die from viral hepatitis, as compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

    • Among all ethnic groups in 2009, African Americans had the highest incidence of Hepatitis B.

    • African Americans were twice as likely to develop Hepatitis B, in 2009, than the White population.

    • African Americans between the ages of 19-24 were three times more likely to have Hepatitis B, in 2008.

    Causes

    Acute hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is found in certain body fluids of infected persons. Chronic, or lifelong, hepatitis B is caused when the virus remains in the body beyond the acute stage.

    Hepatitis B virus can be found in the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and other body fluids of infected people. Transmission happens when infected body fluids enter another person’s body. The virus is most commonly transmitted in the following ways:
        •    Sex with an infected partner
        •    Contact with the blood of an infected person
        •    Sharing of needles, syringes, razors, or toothbrushes with an infected person
        •    Mother-to-child transmission during childbirth

    Hepatitis B is not transmitted through shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, breastfeeding, or sharing cups and utensils.


    Symptoms

    Hepatitis B does not always cause obvious symptoms. Children are less likely than adults to have symptoms, but they are more likely than adults to develop chronic hepatitis B after an acute infection.

    Symptoms of acute hepatitis B include:
        •    Jaundice
        •    Fatigue
        •    Abdominal pain
        •    Nausea or vomiting
        •    Fever
        •    Loss of appetite
        •    Dark urine
        •    Joint pain

    Symptoms of acute hepatitis B generally appear 3 months after you have been exposed to the virus and may last for several weeks to 6 months.

    People with chronic hepatitis B may show no symptoms for 2 to 3 decades. However, about 15 to 25 percent of those chronically infected may develop serious liver disease that is not apparent at first. Chronic infection can ultimately lead to long-term liver damage, liver cancer, or liver failure—all of which can be fatal.


    Exams and Tests

    Healthcare providers review symptoms and can diagnose hepatitis B with a blood test or a combination of blood tests, which will reveal the presence of hepatitis B virus or antibodies to it.


    Treatments

    There are no medicines for treating acute hepatitis B infection after you get it. If you have a mild case, your healthcare provider probably will prescribe rest, plenty of fluids, and a nutritious diet. While your body fights hepatitis B, you should avoid any medicines—over-the-counter or prescribed—that could damage your liver. You also should avoid alcohol during your recovery period, as alcohol may also damage your liver.

    Chronic hepatitis B can be treated with certain medicines, but most people will not have complications severe enough to require medicine. Those with active liver disease may be prescribed one of several medicines to prevent liver damage. If you show no signs of liver damage, your healthcare provider will monitor you to look for liver disease, should it occur.


    Possible Complications

    There is a much higher rate of hepatocellular carcinoma in people who have chronic hepatitis B than in the general population.

    Other complications may include:
        •    Chronic persistent hepatitis
        •    Cirrhosis
        •    Fulminant hepatitis, which can lead to liver failure and possibly death

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:
        •    You develop symptoms of hepatitis B
        •    Hepatitis B symptoms do not go away in 2 or 3 weeks, or new symptoms develop
        •    You belong to a high-risk group for hepatitis B and have not yet received the HBV vaccine.


    Preventions

    The best way to prevent hepatitis B is to be vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in a series of three or four shots given over a 6-month period. The vaccine is safe for adults and children and is routinely given to infants at birth.


    Natural Remedies

    (BlackDoctor.org) — Get a handle on hepatitis. This common liver disease can be severe, or even fatal, so it is important to know the facts. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:

    What You Need To Know:

    • Get evaluated
    See a healthcare provider to determine the cause and best treatment for your condition

    • Check out SAMe
    1,600 mg a day of the supplement S-adenosylmethionine may help resolve blocked bile flow

    • Reduce damage with milk thistle
    Take a standardized herbal extract providing 420 mg a day of silymarin to help the liver

    • Try phyllanthus
    900 to 2,700 mg a day of this herb may be beneficial for people with hepatitis B

    These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full hepatitis article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.

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