What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is one of the most common infections involving liver which spreads through parenteral routes like blood transfusion, sexual route, needle pricks, dental manipulation, tattooing, acupuncture and even from infected mother to the newborn during childbirth. Fortunately, most of us who get fresh infection of hepatitis B from any of the above-mentioned sources have an extremely high chance of spontaneous clearance of the virus, especially in the adults. Unfortunately, 5% of the patients in the adult age group and almost 95% of newborn babies getting hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection from the infected mothers continue to have chronic infection in the body which persists lifelong in the liver of such unfortunate patients.
Hepatitis B spreads due to parenteral routes like blood transfusion, sexual route, needle pricks, dental manipulation, tattooing, acupuncture and from infected mother to the newborn during childbirth.
What does hepatitis B do to the body?
If hepatitis B infection stays in the liver for longer than 6 months, it is called chronic hepatitis B. Patients who have chronic hepatitis B are more prone to develop chronic liver damage in the form of ‘chronic liver disease’, cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). The very fact that you carry hepatitis B virus in the blood means that you are 200 times more likely to develop liver cancer than a person who does not carry this virus.
How do I know whether I am suffering from hepatitis B?
A simple blood examination for hepatitis B surface antigen and anti-HBs antibodies will tell you whether you are suffering from hepatitis B or you have immunity against hepatitis B. The tests are cheap, easily available and very reliable. Anybody and everybody who has received blood transfusion and had undergone surgery, dental manipulation, acupuncture, tattooing should be screened for HBV infection.
What is the treatment for hepatitis B?
In the acute phase of recent infection of hepatitis B you do not require any antiviral therapy, but in the chronic carrier state the persistent virus needs to be eradicated. In general, two types of antiviral therapies are available. In the first treatment, injection pegylated interferon can be given on weekly basis for a period of 48 weeks. However, if this is not able to clear the infection fully, patient will require oral drugs to supress the viral infection on long-term basis, which are easily available and are highly potent. The only drawback is that unlike interferon injections which can kill the virus, the oral drugs only suppress the virus and do not eradicate it. For further treatment, you should see a liver specialist.
How can I prevent myself from hepatitis B virus infection?
As discussed earlier, please get yourself screened for HbsAg antigen and anti-HBSAg antibodies. In case you have not been vaccinated for hepatitis B, you should take the vaccination schedule for hepatitis B which comprises three intramuscular injections of hepatitis B vaccination scheduled at 0, 1 and 6 months and please get your antibodies tested 1 month after the third dose of