Hepatitis B is a condition in which the liver is infected by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), causing it to become inflamed. It is estimated that over two billion people worldwide are infected with this virus, and 350 million people are chronic carriers. In the United States alone, there are over two million people with HBV. If left untreated, hepatitis B can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, which is why prompt treatment is important.For those not infected with HBV, a vaccination that can prevent the disease is available.
HBV is transmitted through body fluids or secretions. Sexual contact from an infected person is the most common way to become infected, since HBV can be found in semen, vaginal fluid and saliva. Contaminated needles used to take drugs, or to get tattoos or body piercings can also be the source of infection. Unfortunately, many people who become acutely infected with HBV do not know that they have it. In 30 to 50 percent of those with HPV, symptoms are vague and may be confused with other medical conditions. Common symptoms of acute HBV infection include fever, fatigue,flu like symptoms, loss of appetite, joint pains, nausea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyesand pruritis (itching of the skin).
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you believe you may have been infected by HBV, you should contact your primary care doctor immediately. You should also make an appointment to see a hepatologist for further testing.
Blood tests can help determine chronic or acute infections, viral load (the amount of virus in your blood), and how well your liver is functioning. A liver biopsy can further help to determine whether there is more severe liver damage, especially if you have chronic hepatitis BA wide array of treatment options is available to provide the optimum care with minimal side effects.
Find more information about hepatitis B here.
Find a physician specializing in the treatment of liver diseases here.
To contact the Division of Gastroenterology, call 718.780.3851.