General Practice 2022

Hepatitis B: symptoms, transmission, treatment and cure

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Hepatitis B: symptoms, transmission, treatment and cure
Hepatitis B: symptoms, transmission, treatment and cure

Hepatitis B is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus, or HBV, which causes changes in the liver and can lead to the appearance of acute signs and symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, and yellow eyes and skin. If the disease is not identified and treated, it can progress to the chronic phase, which may be asymptomatic or be characterized by severe liver involvement, progressing to cirrhosis with changes in its function.

Hepatitis B is considered a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), since the virus can be found in blood, semen and vaginal secretions, and can be easily transmitted to another person during unprotected sex (without a condom). Thus, it is possible to avoid contagion through the use of condoms and vaccination.Learn how to protect yourself from Hepatitis B.

The treatment of hepatitis B varies according to the stage of the disease, with rest, hydration and dietary care being recommended in acute hepatitis, while in chronic hepatitis the treatment is usually done with drugs prescribed by the doctor. hepatologist, infectious disease specialist or general practitioner.

Hepatitis B symptoms

The incubation period for hepatitis B is 2 to 6 months, so the signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis B may appear after 1 to 3 months of contamination. Early signs and symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • Sickness;
  • Vomiting;
  • Tiredness;
  • Low fever;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Pain in joints and muscles.

Symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine and pale stools mean that the disease is developing and there is liver damage.In chronic hepatitis B, most patients do not show any symptoms, but the virus remains in the body and can be transmitted in the same way.

How the transmission happens

The hepatitis B virus can be found mainly in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. Thus, transmission can occur through direct contact with the blood and secretions of a contaminated person, unprotected sex, and sharing personal hygiene items such as razors or shaving blades and manicure or pedicure instruments.

In addition, the use of material contaminated with blood or secretions, such as syringes often used in case of drug use applied directly into the vein, needles and other instruments used for tattooing or acupuncture, as well as material used for piercing, may also increase the risk of transmission of hepatitis B.

Although it can be transmitted through saliva, the B virus is usually not transmitted through kissing or sharing cutlery or cups, as there must be an open wound in the mouth, in addition to transmission during normal delivery or breastfeeding.

How the diagnosis is made

The diagnosis of hepatitis B is made by performing a blood test to detect the presence of HBV in the circulation, as well as its quantity, these data being important for the doctor to indicate the treatment.

In addition, blood tests may be indicated to assess liver function, requiring the dosage of Oxalacetic Glutamic Transaminase (TGO/AST - Aspartate aminotransferase), Pyruvic Glutamic Transaminase (TGP/ ALT - Alanine) Aminotransferase), Gamma-glutamyltransferase (gamma-GT) and bilirubin, for example. Learn more about these and other tests that evaluate the liver.

To identify the presence of the virus in the blood, a search is made for the presence or absence of antigens (Ag) and antibodies (anti) in the blood, and the possible results are:

  • HBsAg reactive or positive: hepatitis B virus infection;
  • HBeAg reagent: high degree of hepatitis B virus replication, which means that the risk of virus transmission is higher;
  • Anti-Hbs reagent: cure or immunity against the virus if the individual has been vaccinated against hepatitis B;
  • Anti-Hbc reagent: previous exposure to hepatitis B virus.

Liver biopsy can also be used to aid in diagnosis, assess liver involvement, predict disease progression and need for treatment.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the disease and, therefore, should be taken immediately after birth, within the first 12 hours after delivery, in the 2nd month and in the 6th month of baby's life, making a total of 3 doses.

Adults who were not vaccinated as children can get the vaccine, including pregnant women from the second trimester of pregnancy.In adults, the hepatitis B vaccine is also administered in 3 doses, the 1st can be taken when necessary, the 2nd after 30 days and the 3rd after 180 days from the first dose. Find out when and how to get the hepatitis B vaccine.

The test that indicates the effectiveness of the vaccine against hepatitis B is the Anti-hbs, which is positive when the vaccine is able to activate protection against the virus.

Hepatitis B is curable?

Acute hepatitis B has a spontaneous cure, in most cases, due to the body creating antibodies to eliminate the virus. However, in some cases, hepatitis B can become chronic and the virus can remain in the body for life.

In chronic hepatitis B there is a great risk of serious liver diseases, such as liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer, which can create irreversible liver damage, so in these cases, patients should follow the treatment indicated by the doctor.

However, with treatment, the person can become a he althy chronic carrier, that is, they can contain the virus in the body, but not have any active liver disease, and in this case, they do not have to take specific medications. In addition, patients with chronic hepatitis B may be cured after several years of treatment.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for acute hepatitis B includes rest, diet, hydration and not drinking alcohol. If necessary, the person can take medication to relieve symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and headaches, nausea and vomiting.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B, in addition to not drinking alcohol and a low-fat diet, includes antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs such as Interferon and Lamivudine to prevent irreversible liver damage, which may have to be taken throughout life.

However, when it is confirmed by the blood test that the individual with chronic hepatitis B does not have liver disease, he/she no longer needs to take the medication, which is why individuals with chronic hepatitis B need to undergo blood often.Learn more about treatment for hepatitis B.

Watch the following video on how to eat in case of hepatitis B to avoid further complications in the liver:

Hepatitis B prevention

Hepatitis B prevention can be done through the 3 doses of the vaccine and the use of condoms in all sexual relations. The use of condoms is very important because there are several different hepatitis viruses and the patient who has taken the hepatitis B vaccine can get hepatitis C.

Also, it is important not to share personal items such as a toothbrush, razor blades or shaving tools, manicure or pedicure instruments, as well as syringes or other sharp instruments. If the individual wants to have a tattoo, piercing or acupuncture, make sure that all materials are properly sterilized.

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