What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation or infection of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its functions can be affected.
The liver is an amazing organ, it is the largest internal organ and has the ability to regenerate when 70% of it tissue is cut off through surgery or injury. The liver is an important organ in the body.
Functions of the liver includes:
- It detoxifies the blood and purifies it.
- It filters and eliminates toxins from the blood cells.
- The liver also produces bile, a fluid that helps digest fats and carry away waste.
However, the liver is vulnerable to infection and the commonest infection of the liver is Hepatitis which is caused by a Hepatitis Virus.
Types of Hepatitis
There are five types of hepatitis: Hepatitis A, B,C, D and E. Among these, the Hepatitis A, B and C are the commonest and in Ghana, Hepatitis B has the greatest prevalence among Ghanaians.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection that affects the Liver, which is caused by the Hepatitis B Virus.
This is the most serious type of viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis B infection causes chronic liver disease and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer
In 2019, hepatitis B resulted in an estimated 820,000 deaths, mostly from Cirrhosis and Hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).
The hepatitis B virus is 50 times more infectious than HIV.
Hepatitis B begins as short-term infections but in some people, the virus remains in the body and causes chronic, or lifelong, infection.
When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, it is called an “acute infection” (or a new infection). An acute hepatitis B infection may last up to six months (with or without symptoms) and infected persons are able to pass the virus to others during this time.
Recovery from an acute infection means that the virus is no longer in your blood, but lives in the liver in an inactive state. You cannot infect anyone else, and you are not considered to be infected. However, the virus that is in your liver can be re-activated in the future if you take medications that suppress the immune system. This can be dangerous to the liver.
People who test positive for the hepatitis B virus for more than six months(after their first blood test result) are diagnosed as having Chronic infection. This means their immune system was not able to get rid of the hepatitis B virus and it still remains in their blood and liver
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis B infection is mostly asymptomatic, that means they show no signs of illness.
- However, Hepatitis B virus can cause an acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
- People with chronic (long-term) hepatitis B infection may later develop serious problems like liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer.