What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation and injury to the liver. The infection is spread from an infected person through blood, semen and other body fluids. It cannot be spread through a cough or a sneeze. People are at an increased risk for hepatitis B infection if they have used shared needles, gotten a tattoo or piercing, or had unprotected sexual intercourse. Babies born to mothers with hepatitis B, are also at increased risk for Hepatitis b infection. This type of transmission, known as vertical transmission, accounts for most adult cases of chronic hepatitis B infection that we see in our clinical practice.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Symptoms of acute hepatitis B infection may begin two to five months after exposure to the virus. Symptoms may vary from no symptoms to a flu-like illness of fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, joint pain and decreased appetite. Infected individuals may also have yellowing (jaundice) of the eyes or skin, dark urine and pale-colored stools. For the majority of people, the infection will clear over several weeks to six months. However, in about 5 percent of adults, the immune system fails to clear the hepatitis B virus, and the infection will become chronic. Chronic infection will have little to no symptoms, until liver damage has progressed over time and scarred the liver (cirrhosis). With cirrhosis, people will have swelling of the abdomen and extremities, and they are at an increased risk for liver cancer.
How is hepatitis B diagnosed?
Hepatitis B is diagnosed by a review of symptoms and medical history and a physical exam. Blood tests are the primary way to screen for and diagnose chronic hepatitis B infection. Liver imaging, such as via an ultrasound, CT Scan or MRI, also are used to evaluate the extent of liver damage or other complications. Liver biopsy is also utilized to determine the extent of damage from the viral infection.
How is hepatitis B treated?
Preventing hepatitis B through vaccination is the best way to avoid the need for treatment. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for infants and adults at higher risk. This vaccine is a series of three injections with an injection given at one month and six months after the first shot. The vaccine offers more than 90 percent protection against the hepatitis B virus. Patients may discuss if they are a good candidate to receive the hepatitis B vaccine with their primary care provider.
For acute hepatitis B infection, people are given supportive treatment tailored to their symptoms. If the infection becomes chronic, people are treated with antiviral medication and routine care to help prevent future liver damage, scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. Liver transplant is sometimes utilized for very advanced cases when significant complications have occurred.
Hepatitis B treatment in Colorado Springs
Our experienced team of physicians and advanced practice providers at Associates in Gastroenterology can help you with your concerns, questions and management of all aspects of gastrointestinal and liver disease. We would love to be your gastroenterology practice. Please schedule an appointment either by calling us (719-635-7321) or by clicking here.
6031 E Woodmen Rd #100
Colorado Springs, CO, 80923
2940 N. Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Endoscopy Centers of Colorado Springs – Audubon Medical Campus
2940 North Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Endoscopy Centers of Colorado Springs – St Francis Medical Campus