What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a disease of the liver that is manifested by inflammation of the liver. Through inflammation, hepatocytes, the most important cells of the liver are affected.
Hepatitis can have several causes but is most often caused by a viral infection. Hepatitis is divided into acute hepatitis, rapid forms with specific symptoms, and chronic hepatitis, which can often be asymptomatic and difficult to detect.
Acute hepatitis, usually caused by the hepatitis A virus, is manifested by symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), fatigue, nausea or vomiting. Chronic hepatitis can only be caused by viruses B, C and D and can go unnoticed but can lead to much more serious diseases over time.
Viruses that cause viral hepatitis B C and D are also dangerous because they are highly transmissible, with hepatitis B being more easily transmitted through blood or sexual contact than HIV.
Fortunately, there are treatments for hepatitis B and C and for Hepatitis B there is also a vaccine.
Hepatitis B is a disease caused by a highly transmissible DNA virus. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of the most widespread hepatitis viruses worldwide, in Romania it is estimated that up to one in 20 people is infected.
Hepatitis B virus is one hundred times more transmissible than HIV and ten times more transmissible than Hepatitis C virus. The main routes of transmission are from mother to child during birth, through unprotected sexual intercourse or through contact with blood or other fluids. (semen, saliva, other secretions) of an infected person.
The virus can last for a long time on improperly sterilized medical or dental instruments, in reused syringes, or on needles and instruments used for piercings or tattoos. For these reasons, the virus is often transmitted outside the risk groups, with many infected people acquiring the infection as a result of medical or dental procedures.
Hepatitis B virus is not transmitted through air, water or food, by coughing or touching, and is rarely transmitted through breast milk.
The evolution of the disease
The severity of Hepatitis B depends on the concentration of the virus in the blood (viremia) and the acute or chronic form of the disease.
The acute form occurs 6-12 weeks after infection and can be manifested by fatigue, yellowing, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or flu-like symptoms. One in two cases is asymptomatic. In one in 100 cases, however, hepatitis B develops into a much more serious form of fulminant hepatitis, in which case the liver is significantly affected and can no longer perform its function. In the absence of a transplant, the patient dies in 90% of cases.
Less than 10% of people infected with the hepatitis B virus reach a chronic form of the disease and among them the infection can be active (which inflames the liver) or inactive. The severity of the disease varies between people infected with HBV and can lead to liver cirrhosis and other conditions over time.
Aggravating factors for Hepatitis B are:
- Alcohol consumption
- Infections with other hepatitis viruses or HIV
- Old age
Sometimes the viremia can be so small that the virus is almost undetectable and requires only medical monitoring and not treatment. Sometimes treatment is needed to keep the disease under control. In order to prevent hepatitis B virus infection (and co-infection with D), it is recommended to vaccinate and not share personal use products with other people, such as nails, toothbrushes, razors, etc..
What can I do?
If you want to be tested for hepatitis B, contact your family doctor and ask for more information about testing programs in Romania.
How can I treat myself?
If you are diagnosed with hepatitis B it is extremely important to consult a doctor for treatment.
How can I prevent hepatitis B virus infection?
The only sure way to prevent this is to get vaccinated against the virus. It is also recommended not to use personal hygiene items in common with other people and to always practice protected sex.