The term "hepatitis" refers to syndromes or diseases causing liver inflammation, including inflammation due to viruses and chronic alcohol abuse. Viruses causing hepatitis include Hepatitis A, B, C, E, and the delta factor. Each virus causes a distinct syndrome, though they share some symptoms and consequences.
Most people who become infected with hepatitis B get rid of the virus within 6 months. A short infection is known as an "acute" case of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is transmitted via blood and other body fluids. Infection can occur through:
People who are at higher risk, including healthcare workers and those who live with someone with hepatitis B, should get the hepatitis B vaccine.
In acute hepatitis, it takes about 1-6 months from the time of infection until symptoms appear. Early symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches. Jaundice, together with dark urine and light stools, follows. About 1% of patients infected with hepatitis B die due to liver damage in this early stage.
The risk of becoming chronically infected depends on the person's age at the time of infection. More than 90% of newborns, about 50% of children, and less than 5% of adults infected with hepatitis B develop chronic hepatitis.
Most damage from hepatitis B virus is caused by the body's response to the infection. The body's immune response against the infected liver cells (hepatocytes) damages the cells, causing liver inflammation (hepatitis). As a result, liver enzymes (transaminases) leak out of the liver into the blood, causing transaminase blood levels to be elevated. The virus impairs the liver's ability to produce the clotting factor prothrombin, increasing the time required for blood clot formation (prothrombin time).
Liver damage also impairs the body's ability to rid itself of bilirubin (a breakdown product of old red blood cells), causing jaundice (yellow discoloration of the eyes and body) and dark urine.
Source: Portal Content Team
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