Hepatitis B (Hep B) is an infection of your liver. It can cause scarring of the organ, liver failure, and cancer. It can be fatal if it isn’t treated. It’s spread when people come in contact with the blood, open sores, or body fluids of someone who has the hepatitis B virus. It’s serious, but if you get the disease as an adult, it shouldn’t last a long time. Your body fights it off within a few months, and you’re immune for the rest of your life. That means you can’t get it again. But if you get it at birth, it’ unlikely to go away.
Types of Hepatitis B
As leading researchers in hepatitis B care, doctors at Stanford have a unique appreciation for the progression of hepatitis B. Accurately determining which form you have helps us select the best treatment.
You may have acute or chronic hepatitis B, depending on how long HBV has been in your blood:
Acute hepatitis B: You have acute hepatitis B from the time you are first infected until six months afterward. Acute hepatitis B rarely causes liver damage.
Chronic hepatitis B: Chronic hepatitis B happens when HBV is still in your blood six months after your initial exposure. Only a small number of people end up with chronic hepatitis B. However, this is a serious condition and can lead to chronic liver damage (cirrhosis).
It is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is passed from person to person through blood, semen or other body fluids. It does not spread by sneezing or coughing.
Common ways that HBV can spread are:
Sexual contact. You may get hep B if you have unprotected sex with someone who is infected. The virus can pass to you if the person’s blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body.
Sharing of needles. HBV easily spreads through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing IV drug paraphernalia puts you at high risk.
Accidental needle sticks. Hepatitis B is a concern for health care workers and anyone else who comes in contact with human blood.
Mother to child. Pregnant women infected with HBV can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth. However, the newborn can be vaccinated to avoid getting infected in almost all cases. Talk to your doctor about being tested for HBV if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant.
What are the Symptoms?
When you’re first infected, the warning signs include:
Your skin or the whites of the eyes turn yellow, and your pee turns brown or orange.)
Fatigue that persists for weeks or months
Stomach trouble like loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
Symptoms may not show up until 1 to 6 months after you catch the virus. You might not feel anything. About a third of the people who have this disease don’t. They only find out through a blood test.
People with hep B can sometimes develop serious liver problems. These mostly affect people with untreated long-term (chronic) infection.
Some of the main problems associated with hep B include:
Tiredness and weakness
Loss of appetite
Very itchy skin
Tenderness, pain or swelling in the tummy
Swelling of the ankles
Unexplained weight loss
Loss of appetite
Feeling very full after eating, even if the meal was small
Feeling and being sick
Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
Fulminant hepatitis B
Swelling of the tummy caused by a build-up of fluid
Diet plans for Hepatitis B
A person with hepatitis just needs to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet.
That diet should include:
Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley, and quinoa.
Lean protein such as fish, skinless chicken, egg whites, and beans.
Low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
Healthy fats like those in nuts, avocados, and olive oil.
What Not to Eat or Drink?
Keep in mind that an unhealthy diet can contribute to liver damage. If you eat too much high-calorie greasy, fatty, or sugary food, you’ll gain weight and fat will begin to build up in your liver. A “fatty liver” can contribute to developing cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver. Fat in your liver can also interfere with the effectiveness of drugs that target the hepatitis virus.
Avoid the following:
Saturated fats found in butter, sour cream, and other high-fat dairy foods, fatty cuts of meat, and fried foods
Sugary treats like cookies, cake, soda, and packaged baked goods
Foods heavily laced with salt
Many experts recommend that hepatitis patients also avoid raw or undercooked shellfish, which can harbor viruses and bacteria. You may consider limiting your consumption of processed foods as well, since they can contain chemical additives and high levels of salt.