What Is Hepatitis B – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, And Treatment

Hepatitis B is a life-threatening medical condition triggered by the hepatitis B virus. It can cause serious liver damage. Approximately, about 257 million people are currently living with this infection (1). Shocking, isn’t it?

Most of the time, this infection is symptomless. And if symptoms do prevail, they are usually stomach pain accompanied by fever and yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. To know a little more about hepatitis B and its potential treatment options, continue reading.

What Is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection triggered by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It also causes the liver to become inflamed. Most of the times, hepatitis B is a short-term or acute illness that resolves without any permanent damage. But, in some people, hepatitis B can develop into a chronic condition that leads to complications like liver cancer and cirrhosis. Around 90% of infants who have contracted this virus will most certainly develop a chronic infection.

An affected person can pass on hepatitis B to another person without being aware of it.

How Do You Get Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is usually transmitted through infected blood, semen, or any other body fluid. It can be transmitted during:

  • Sexual activity
  • Pregnancy – An infected mother can pass on the virus to the child.
  • Tattooing using shared needles

One can also contract the infection by sharing needles/syringes or personal hygiene items like toothbrushes and razors with an infected person.

However, hepatitis B doesn’t spread by kissing, hugging, breastfeeding, sharing plates, coughing, or insect bites.

What Causes Hepatitis B?

As already mentioned, hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is usually present in blood, semen, and other bodily fluids.

People usually contract hepatitis B when they travel to a place where the infection is common. As this infection can also be symptomless, one may not know if they are infected and may, therefore, spread it to others.

Listed below are the factors that can increase your risk of getting hepatitis B.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for hepatitis B are:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Having multiple partners
  • Using shared needles while taking intravenous drugs
  • Living with a person who is battling a chronic hepatitis infection
  • Being born to an infected mother
  • A profession that requires you to be exposed to human blood most of the time
  • Traveling to regions where hepatitis B is common

Those infected by HBV usually exhibit the following signs and symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis B?

The symptoms associated with hepatitis B are:

  • Dark colored urine
  • Jaundice – A condition caused by the build-up of bilirubin in the blood, which causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes.
  • Stomach pain
  • Pain in the joints
  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea that may be accompanied by vomiting

If you display any of these symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor immediately to rule out the chances of hepatitis B.

How Is Hepatitis B Tested?

Once you visit a doctor, they may begin by conducting a physical examination to look for symptoms of liver damage, such as belly pain or jaundice. Any one or a combination of the following diagnostic tests may be suggested to diagnose hepatitis B and the associated complications:

  • Blood test – To detect the presence of the virus
  • Liver ultrasound – To help in detecting the extent of liver damage
  • Liver biopsy – To check for symptoms of liver damage

If you happen to test positive for hepatitis B, your doctor may prescribe any of the following treatments depending on whether your infection is acute or chronic.

What Are The Treatments For Hepatitis B?

If you are diagnosed with an acute hepatitis B infection, you will most likely not need any treatment. Short-term hepatitis B can be eased by getting complete rest, proper nutrition, and drinking plenty of fluids to assist your body in fighting the infection better.

However, in severe or chronic cases of hepatitis B, the patient may need to be treated for the rest of their lives. Treatment not only helps reduce the risk of liver complications but also prevents spreading of the infection to others.

Medical treatments for hepatitis B include:

  • Antiviral Medications – Lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera), telbivudine (Tyzeka), entecavir (Baraclude), and tenofovir (Viread) to fight HPV and slow down the progress of liver damage.
  • Interferon Injections – Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A), which is developed for the younger lot who do not want to avail long-term treatment.
  • Liver Transplant – This is often considered as the last line of treatment when the liver is severely damaged.

Those with short-term or acute hepatitis B are at an increased risk of developing a chronic infection in the future. A chronic hepatitis B infection cannot be cured. However, availing treatment can help slow down the progression of the disease and prevent complications. Listed below are some amazing home remedies that may act as potential adjuvant therapy to existing hepatitis B treatments.

Home Remedies To Manage Hepatitis B

1. Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle

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Milk thistle contains silibinin, a compound that inhibits the entry of the hepatitis B virus into the hepatocytes. It gives even better results when used in conjunction with entecavir – an antiviral medication (2).

You Will Need

Milk thistle supplement

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a milk thistle supplement daily.
  2. Alternatively, you can also consume milk thistle tea.
  3. Consult a doctor to find the right dose of the supplement for you.
How Often You Should Do This

You may take this once daily or as advised by your physician.

2. Garlic

Garlic

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The active component of garlic is allicin. Allicin possesses immunomodulatory activities that may help prevent liver injury caused by hepatitis B (3). Its antiviral effects can help combat HBV (4).

You Will Need

2-3 garlic cloves

What You Have To Do
  1. Crush the garlic cloves and add to your favorite dishes.
  2. Alternatively, you can also eat the garlic cloves directly.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once daily.

3. Ginger

Ginger

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Ginger acts as a natural hepatoprotective agent that can help prevent liver damage (5). It is also an antiviral that can be used to inactivate viruses (6). Hence, it may also be used to prevent liver complications associated with hepatitis B.

You Will Need
  • An inch of sliced ginger
  • A cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add an inch of sliced ginger to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain.
  4. Allow the ginger tea to cool a bit before drinking it.
How Often You Should Do This

You may drink this 1-2 times daily.

4. Green Tea

Green Tea

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Green tea contains many beneficial compounds that can inhibit the hepatitis B virus. Its major component, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), was also observed to inhibit the infection (7).

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of green tea
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of green tea to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 5-7 minutes and strain.
  3. Drink the freshly prepared green tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this concoction 1-2 times daily.

5. Red Ginseng

Red Ginseng

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Korean red ginseng is an impressive natural supplement that can act as a complementary therapy when taken with antiviral medications for treating hepatitis B (8).

You Will Need

Korean red ginseng supplement

What You Have To Do

Consume red ginseng supplement daily. Talk to your doctor to find the right dosage of the supplement for you.

How Often You Should Do This

You may consume this as advised by your doctor.

6. Honey

Honey

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Honey exhibits hepatoprotective and antiviral properties that may help in managing hepatitis B (9), (10).

You Will Need

1 teaspoon of organic or raw honey

What You Have To Do

Consume a teaspoon of organic honey.

How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 1-2 times daily.

7. Sugarcane Juice

Sugarcane Juice

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Sugarcane juice is a rich source of various flavonoids and anthocyanins, which provide hepatoprotective action against liver injury (11). It may also help in slowing the progression of liver damage associated with hepatitis B.

You Will Need

½ glass of fresh sugarcane juice

What You Have To Do

Consume half a glass of fresh sugarcane juice.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink it once daily for optimum benefits.

8. Bitter Kola

Bitter Kola

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Bitter kola (Garcinia kola) seed extract shows protective effects against liver damage (12). It can be used to slow down the liver complications that surface with hepatitis B.

You Will Need

Bitter kola seed supplement

What You Have To Do

Consume bitter kola supplement daily after consulting your doctor.

How Often You Should Do This

Take this supplement as directed by your physician.

9. Turmeric

Turmeric

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Curcumin, the major component of turmeric, inhibits the replication of the hepatitis B virus. Hence, you can take turmeric daily to prevent further complications from hepatitis B (13).

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 glass of hot milk
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk.
  2. Mix well and drink the concoction.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this once daily, preferably before bedtime.

These remedies may work quite effectively in enhancing the effects of existing treatments for hepatitis. Additionally, here are some tips that can help prevent the progression of this viral disease.

How Do You Prevent Hepatitis B From Spreading?

  • Determine the HBV status of your sexual partner if they have ever been exposed to the HBV virus.
  • Do not share personal care items like razors or needles with anyone.
  • Consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine if you are at risk of developing the infection.
  • Be careful while getting tattooed or pierced and make sure that sterile needles are being used.
  • Use condoms while indulging in sexual intercourse. While using condoms greatly decreases your risk of getting hepatitis B, it doesn’t eliminate it.
  • Avoid direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

All these tips can be of great help in preventing hepatitis B infection, especially if you are exposed to multiple risk factors.

Your diet can also play an important role in managing this disease better.

Diet For Hepatitis B

Those dealing with hepatitis B often have a weak liver. Certain foods can influence hepatic lipid metabolism and must be avoided. They include (14):

  • Carbohydrates like sweets or sugary soft drinks
  • High-fat foods like dairy, red meat, fried and processed foods
  • Foods high in cholesterol like fast foods, desserts, and processed meat like sausages

One should opt for a healthy and well-balanced diet that contains lean meats, healthy fats like eggs, fatty fish, and avocado. A diet that is rich in protein can also play a significant role in managing the symptoms of hepatitis B.

If you follow the above remedies and diet tips diligently, you can cope a lot better with hepatitis B infection. However, it is recommended that you use these remedies as an adjuvant therapy to the available medical treatments for maximum benefits.

Did you find this article helpful? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How long can the hepatitis B virus live outside the body?

Hepatitis B virus can live outside the body for up to 7 days, during which it is infectious and can cause infections.

Is Hepatitis B the main focus of OSHA BBP regulations?

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) bloodborne pathogens (BBP) regulations mainly include but are not limited to bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

How long do hepatitis B vaccines last?

The immunological memory of HBV vaccines remains intact for 20-30 years if the vaccine is administered at six months of age.

Can hepatitis B be cured totally?

While hepatitis B cannot be cured, it usually goes away on its own in 4-8 weeks. However, in some individuals, this infection can become chronic, and the infected people will be carriers of hepatitis B.

When to get the hepatitis B vaccine?

The first shot of the hepatitis B virus is usually given at birth. This vaccine has 2, 3, or 4 shots, and the series is mostly completed by the time the infant turns 6 months.

What is the schedule for hepatitis B vaccine for adults?

The hepatitis B vaccine schedule for adults includes four weeks between the first and second dose, eight weeks between the second and third dose, and at least sixteen weeks between the first and third dose.

What are the side effects of hepatitis B vaccine in babies?

Some of the side effects associated with the hepatitis B vaccine in infants include prolonged crying, excessive sleepiness, convulsions, rashes on the body, fever, and diarrhea. Some babies may also collapse, which is characterized by pale skin, blue lips, and unresponsiveness. See a doctor if your infant develops any of the side effects.

Can you get a hepatitis B shot while pregnant?

Yes, you can get a hepatitis B vaccination if you are pregnant to protect yourself and your baby against the infection during pregnancy.

What organ does hepatitis B affect?

Hepatitis B mainly affects the liver and may cause liver failure, scarring of the organ, or even liver cancer if treatment is not availed promptly.

References

  1. “Hepatitis B” World Health Organization.
  2. “Inhibitory effect of silibinin on hepatitis B virus entry” Biochemistry And Biophysics Reports, US National Library Of Medicine.
  3. “Allicin, the active component of garlic, prevents immune-mediated, concanavalin A-induced hepatic injury in mice.” Liver International, US National Library Of Medicine.
  4. “Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic.” Microbes and Infection, US National Library Of Medicine.
  5. “Potential efficacy of ginger as a natural supplement for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  6. “Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has antiviral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  7. “Green tea extract and its major component epigallocatechin gallate inhibits hepatitis B virus in vitro.” Antiviral Research, US National Library Of Medicine.
  8. “Effects of Complementary Combination Therapy of Korean Red Ginseng and Antiviral Agents in Chronic Hepatitis B” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine.
  9. “Honey prevents hepatic damage induced by obstruction of the common bile duct” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  10. “Antimicrobial properties of honey.” American Journal of Therapeutics, US National Library Of Medicine.
  11. “PROTECTIVE EFFECT OF SACCHARUM OFFICINARUM L. (SUGAR CANE) JUICE ON ISONIAZID INDUCED HEPATOTOXICITY IN MALE ALBINO MICE.” Journal of Ayub Medical College Abbottabad, US National Library Of Medicine.
  12. “Protective effects of Garcinia kola seed extract against paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity in rats.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  13. “Curcumin inhibits hepatitis B virus infection by down-regulating cccDNA-bound histone acetylation” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine
  14. “Nutrition Therapy for Liver Diseases Based on the Status of Nutritional Intake” Gastroenterology Research And Practice, US National Library Of Medicine.
  15. “Nutritional therapy of chronic hepatitis by whey protein (non-heated).” Journal Of Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine.

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