Chronic hepatitis B is a very serious condition that affects the liver. Its main cause is the hepatitis B virus (HBV). As with all chronic conditions, the symptoms might not be visible early on. Because of this, the large majority of people who have HBV don’t receive a proper diagnosis. This is alarming as 200,000 Americans die each year from HBV-related liver diseases.
How Do You Contract HBV?
Because HBV is very contagious, there are several ways to contract it. One way to get it is through intercourse with an infected person. You can also get it via a blood transfusion, contaminated needles, or saliva. After it enters your body, it takes about six weeks for the virus to develop the symptoms.
Children can contract HBV, too, especially at birth. As a rule, they won’t have any symptoms early on. But the virus will remain in their body and progress over time. Children are thus at a high risk of suffering from chronic hepatitis B.
The Health Risks of Chronic Hepatitis B
Because chronic hepatitis B affects the liver, it may result in some related health complications. These include:
If the symptoms are severe, these three conditions may even result in premature death. In some cases, people with chronic hepatitis B could also develop hepatitis D, but this infection is very rare in the West. Moreover, patients can get an HBV vaccine to prevent it.
What You Should Do
The HBV vaccine is the first line of defense from chronic hepatitis B. Both children and adults should get it, especially if someone in the family already has HBV. It’s also very safe and affordable.
Because the virus is transmitted sexually, you also need to practice safe sex. Get tested for STIs at least once a year and visit your doctor for regular medical checkups.