Hepatitis B 101: Everything You Need To Know About It
Millions of people die every year due to deadly illnesses. One of them is ‘hepatitis’ – a silent killer that lurks in the bodies of around 6% of the population in Singapore. This term refers to a common form of liver injury and is known to be the most serious liver infection in the world. If left untreated, hepatitis lives with you for decades before dealing you a fatal blow during the weakest point of your body.
Hepatitis B is a specific type of hepatitis caused by a virus. Research shows more than 250 million carriers of this type of disease in the world. It is the main cause of death of over 600,000 people every year. Fortunately, many clinics offer vaccination or diagnosis of this disease. Read on to know every important detail about hepatitis B.
How is hepatitis B transmitted?
It’s important to note that the main way of transmission of this disease is through the exposure of an infected person to blood or bloodily fluids. Below are the main ways of transmission.
1. Unprotected sexual course
One of the most common ways an individual becomes infected with hepatitis B is through sexual contact with someone who already has hepatitis b. For people who are infected with this disease and have regular sexual partners, make sure to tell your partner to get tested for infection and get vaccinated immediately.
Hepatitis B can be passed down from an infected mother to her baby during or minutes after giving birth. Even having a Cesarean delivery does not prevent the virus from spreading. However, experts believe that even though a mom is diagnosed with hepatitis B, it’s safe for her to breastfeed her child.
3. Contaminated needles/syringes
Nowadays, it is incredibly rare for hepatitis B to disperse via blood transfusion or an organ transplant. While blood and organ donors undergo a careful process for hepatitis infection, accidentally contaminated needle sticks or syringes can be the main culprit for this type of transmission.
4. Close contact
Hepatitis B can also spread through close or personal contact – which refers to the moment the blood or other physical fluids get into small gaps in your skin, mouth or eyes. This type of virus can survive for a long time away from the body, which means it can spread by using similar household items like toys, toothbrushes, or razors.
Who are at risk of developing hepatitis b?
It’s true that not everyone gets infected with hepatitis B and that there are specific ways how it can be transmitted. However, there are types of people who are more likely to develop this disease compared to others, and it is mainly due to their lifestyle. People who are at risk of hepatitis b are people who frequently need blood or blood products like patients who are in dialysis, people who share needles for recreational drugs, people who have immune deficiencies like HIV, and people who engage in unprotected sexual intercourse.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis b?
People who have hepatitis B experience varied symptoms and can be identified through two types: acute hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis B. However, after an individual is infected with this disease, a flu-like illness that includes fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, decreased appetite or, in some cases, yellowing of eyes and skin are known as jaundice, may happen.
In severe cases, liver failure can develop and is identified through the most obvious symptoms – jaundice, confusion, and swelling in the legs or abdomen. However, most patients do not develop these symptoms, particularly children and infants – but not having symptoms does not mean that the infection is under control. There are cases where people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms but experience sudden liver failure at a late stage.
How is hepatitis B diagnosed?
There are plenty of blood tests and PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) that helps diagnose and monitor patients with hepatitis B and distinguish acute from chronic infections. Unfortunately, there is no viable cure for chronic Hepatitis B as of now, but patients with this disease should undergo regular monitoring of disease progression for the rest of their life and must take medications to suppress the level of virus in their blood and prevent developing cirrhosis and cancer.
On the brighter side, hepatitis B can be prevented through numerous things. The important things to remember to minimise the chances of getting infected with Hepatitis B include avoiding engaging in unprotected sex or casual sex with multiple partners, avoiding sharing needles, razors, toothbrushes or any sharp objects that may crack your skin, making sure to sterilise instruments or use disposable needles, and getting vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can cause serious damage to your overall health, and what makes it even more dangerous is that it can easily go undetected for years without knowing it’s slowly damaging your liver. This is why it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider or visit the nearest clinic and get tested for hepatitis B. Early diagnosis is key so seek help from one of our doctors here at GUTCARE for a test or vaccination against hepatitis b in Singapore!