The term hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and there are a variety of reasons that the liver can become inflamed. Infection, immune system disorders, alcohol abuse, medications or toxic materials are just some of these reasons.
When you are diagnosed with hepatitis B, it has been caused by exposure to the hepatitis B virus. There are two stages of hepatitis B – chronic and acute.
Acute hepatitis occurs when you are exposed to the virus. In a very small amount of cases the patient will have a form of the virus that is life threatening, but in most cases the disease can be fought off by the immune system and it does not become chronic.
Chronic hepatitis B occurs when the virus lasts for longer than six months. If the virus gets to the chronic stage it may never completely go away. There are some patients who have chronic hepatitis B that are carriers of the virus but do not get sick. These people can transfer the virus to others. This is about two thirds of those with chronic hepatitis B. The remaining third of the patients with hepatitis B do become sick with the disease, which can be extremely serious.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver, whose job it is to remove toxins from the blood. The liver also helps the body to process nutrients and store the energy for use by the body when it is needed later. The liver also helps the body to fight off infection and can usually heal itself. This healing, however, will only happen if there is no disease causing damage.
When the liver becomes damaged from cirrhosis, it will become hardened. Some chronic hepatitis B sufferers will develop liver cancer as well. This means the conditions that can result from chronic hepatitis B can be life threatening if they are not treated.
The symptoms of hepatitis B are not present in about half of recorded cases. If symptoms are to present themselves, they will occur anywhere between thirty and one hundred and eighty days after exposure. The symptoms are flu like and many people simply believe that they do actually have the flu. Loss of appetite, pain in the area of the liver, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, itching all over the body, jaundice, changes in the color of urine and stool with urine appearing very dark in color are some of the symptoms of hepatitis B.
An acute form of hepatitis B will have severe symptoms that must be treated immediately. Fulminant hepatitis B is a life threatening condition and the symptoms will usually come on right away. Some of these may include confusion, fatigue, hallucinations, jaundice, and a swollen abdomen.
For most people, treatment for hepatitis B can occur at home with treatment of the symptoms. Stay away from medications for pain like Tylenol or acetaminophen products because they can cause damage to the liver. Drink lots of fluids to keep the body hydrated while you are ill. Get plenty of rest while you are ill with hepatitis B and if you are feeling worse or you begin to feel new symptoms, contact your doctor.
Dehydration is one of the most serious consequences of acute hepatitis B. There is no treatment that will prevent acute hepatitis B from becoming chronic hepatitis B. Patients who become severely dehydrated or experience confusion or hallucinations may need to be treated in the hospital. For chronic hepatitis B, the doctor will prescribe antiviral medications, but they do not necessarily work for everyone.
Antiviral drugs are not prescribed to everyone with the condition. They are usually given to those who will likely progress to chronic hepatitis B. The decision to use medications for your treatment will be determined by blood tests performed by the doctor. If there is evidence that your liver function is becoming deteriorated, medications will be prescribed.
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