Hepatitis B symptoms

November 12, 2012

Hepatitis B symptoms

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver, in the case of chronic infection this may lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and result in permanent scarring to the liver. There is some evidence that links hepatitis B with the development of liver cancer. Hepatitis B is usually transmitted from one individual to another via infected bodily fluids.

Who is at risk?

Those most at risk of developing hepatitis B symptoms fall into several categories -

  • Intravenous drug users who share needles and drug paraphernalia

  • Participants in unprotected sexual activity – particularly with multiple partners

  • Regular travellers to areas known to have a high incidence of hepatitis B amongst the local population

  • Medical workers at risk of accidental needle stick injuries

  • Babies born to infected mothers

  • The virus affects more men than women

  • The virus appears to affect more black individuals than those of Hispanic origin.

Adult sufferers from the virus, even when they show experience hepatitis B symptoms, may never develop the chronic stage of the disease and may make a complete recovery with no long term complications. However, infants and children are at risk of developing chronic hepatitis B.

Prevention

Prevention of the disease involves lifestyle changes such as always using a condom and practising safe sex; no sharing of needles and getting vaccinated – the vaccination for hepatitis B is an effective method of protection against the virus. As with many diseases and medical conditions, the quicker the virus is discovered, the better the chances are of making a full recovery. It should also be noted that those who are infected at a young age are much more likely to develop the chronic phase of the disease. Hepatitis B symptoms may not develop until six months after the initial infection.

Hepatitis B symptoms

There are a number of hepatitis B symptoms – an individual may experience some or all of them in varying degrees of severity.

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Low grade fever accompanied by ‘flu like symptoms

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Jaundice

  • Decreased mental capacity

  • Altered sleep pattern

  • Swelling of the extremities

  • Testicular atrophy

  • Muscular aches and pains

  • Men may develop breasts

  • Enlargement of the spleen and/or of the liver

  • Reddening of the palms and, sometimes, the soles of the feet

Chronic phase of the infection

Individuals in the chronic phase of this viral infection are generally disease free but will be able to transmit the virus to others. Hepatitis B symptoms may be present when the virus is active -

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea

  • Weakness

  • Pain in the mid and upper abdomen

Diagnosis

Various tests and investigations are used in order to correctly diagnose an individual with hepatitis B symptoms.

  • Enzyme levels

  • Albumin levels

  • Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate

  • Prothrombin levels

  • Complete blood count

  • Detection of viral markers in the blood

  • Imaging tests as determined by the consulting physician

Treatment

Symptomatic treatment of hepatitis B will involve prescribing anti-emetics in order to ease any nausea and vomiting, antacids and intravenous fluids may also be prescribed if necessary. Other drug regimes which may be administered according to each individual’s needs include -

  • Interferon and Pegylated interferon

  • Lamivudine; Adefovir dipivoxil; Entecavir; Telbivudine and Tenofovir

  • Liver transplant may be the only treatment alternative for patients with fulminant hepatitis.

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