Contracting the hepatitis B virus isn’t uncommon in Singapore. With an estimated 4% of the population as hepatitis B carriers, it’s crucial to know the symptoms and manage them through regular screening and treatment.
The term hepatitis refers to a swelling of the liver. Your liver can swell when it has contracted viral infections, drugs and other chemicals. These viral infections are namely triggered by hepatitis A, B and C viruses. And out of these viruses, hepatitis B is the most common liver infection in Singapore.
What are the symptoms you will see?
Most people in Singapore contract hepatitis B infection from mother to baby during the period immediately before and after birth. This way of transmission usually does not have symptoms for years. Some may have flare of the infection in adulthood. During that time, you might exhibit generic symptoms like stomach pains or flu-like symptoms, which are easily dismissed. If there are symptoms present, a person with hepatitis B may experience the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Constant fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stools
- Darker urine colour
However, even if the patient does not exhibit any visible symptoms after many years, there is still a danger that the virus can evolve and cause liver damage. For instance, chronic hepatitis, liver failure, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Advanced liver damage might then produce the following symptoms:
- Blood present in stools
- Develop a disoriented sense
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdominal areas and extremities
How to avoid flare of hepatitis B?
If you are a chronic carrier of hepatitis B, the best way to detect the flare of the virus is to screen your liver regularly – check for active liver inflammation. And how often do you need to have the screening? It’s recommended to take the liver function test every six months. Early detection of any liver inflammation would help prevent the long term complication of hepatitis B.
How do you know if you have been infected with hepatitis B?
In the case you receive an abnormal liver test function and is suspected of having contracted hepatitis B, follow up immediately with a hepatitis B test. Head down to any clinic and take the HBsAg (Hepatitis B surface antigen) blood test. After confirming the presence of the virus, it’s best to heed your doctor’s advice for the next steps as not all hepatitis B cases need treatment.
What can you do to manage liver damage?
As hepatitis B infection can lead to liver damage and liver cancer, on top of the specific treatment prescribed by your doctor, monitor your liver by going for an ultrasound screening once in six months. During which, imaging of your liver is done to detect any early sign of liver cancer and liver damage.
There are also several lifestyle changes you can make to improve the health of your liver. Hepatitis B patients are recommended to avoid any alcohol consumptions because more toxins from the alcohol content can cause further damage to your liver. Additionally, engaging in regular exercise while getting an adequate amount of rest can boost your immunity system. Lastly, if you wish to introduce supplements or medication for a more nutritious diet, discuss with your doctor before doing so.
Typically, most adult patients that get acute hepatitis B infection can recover from the infection. In contrast, those who contracted the virus from mother-to-child transmission would become chronic hepatitis B carrier. With that, remember to monitor your liver closely with regular blood tests and seek professional help early for the best prevention