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Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver.”

Hepatitis B essentially means an infection with the virus Hepatitis B.

Is this infection common?

There are estimated 300 million carriers of the hepatitis B virus in the world, with over 500,000 dying annually from HBV-related liver disease.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

An illustration of the symptoms of Hepatitis B

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B infection?

The symptoms of hepatitis B infection may manifest differently during acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis and as well it may vary among individuals.

Yet most infected people may not experience any symptoms for many years.

However, the absence of symptoms does not necessarily mean that the infection is under control.

Symptoms of acute infection are:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

Symptoms of significant liver damage may include:

  • Jaundice
  • A distended, fluid-filled abdomen (ascites)
  • Edema of the legs
  • Small, spider-like veins, usually on the chest and back (spider angiomas)
  • Confusion
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract.

What are the complications of Hepatitis B?

The liver is susceptible to damage by the hepatitis B virus. The extent of the damage is variable as it relies upon the liver’s ability to repair itself and the body’s immune system to control the infection

The complications of this infection include liver scarring (medically known as cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure.

All these complications are potential life-threatening.

Who is at risk for Hepatitis B infection?

  • Sexually active individuals with multiple sex partners
  • Homosexual and bisexual men
  • A distended, fluid-filled abdomen (ascites)
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Household contacts of individuals with hepatitis B
  • Intravenous drugs user
  • Hemodialysis
  • Individuals with chronic liver disease
  • Healthcare workers
Hepatitis B complications

Picture of a lab tech holding on to Hepatitis B sample test

How do I know if I have been infected with Hepatitis B?

The condition can be diagnosed with a blood test.

HBsAg blood test (Hepatitis B surface Antigen) positivity for at least 2 occasions means chronic infection with Hepatitis B.

A negative HBsAg would either imply that the person does not have Hepatitis B infection or had cleared an infection with Hepatitis B previously.

Should a person who has never been infected with Hepatitis B and does not have any protective antibodies would have a negative HBsAg and hepatitis B antibodies tests.

How do I prevent myself from being infected with Hepatitis B?

Vaccines are now available that can effectively prevent infection. In Singapore, newborns are routinely vaccination.

I have Hepatitis B. What should I do?

Everybody with Hepatitis B should undergo regular medical follow-up. The purpose of regular check up is to screen for liver cancer and any active liver inflammation. In general, most patients require a 6-monthly follow-up. During these follow-up visits, an ultrasound is done to detect any suspicious lesions or liver cancer.

Blood tests include liver function tests to detect any liver inflammation. Alpha fetoprotein is blood marker for liver cancer. It can aid in the diagnosis of liver cancer.

We advice patients to avoid alcohol, traditional medicines and any medications containing steroids as these substances may cause additional liver damage.

For more information regarding Hepatitis B, you can reach us at Andrea's Digestive Clinic.

An illustration of a normal liver and an inflamed liver

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