Hepatitis B

Ari Nowain, MD has years of experience as a gastroenterologist, and is uniquely specialized in the treatment and prevention of Hepatitis B. At the Center for GI Health in the heart of Beverly Hills, we offer the latest testing and treatments to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis B.

What Is Hepatitis B?

Not be confused with hepatitis C, hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Some patients with hepatitis B do not require treatment beyond routine follow-ups with a doctor while others require treatment and follow-ups. Some patients may potentially be cured of the virus, while others will require treatment to suppress the virus in order to prevent complications.

How Can Hepatitis B Be Contracted?

hepatitis b liver

Hepatitis B can spread through the exposure to bodily fluids of someone infected with HBV. Sources of infection may include:

  • Direct contact with blood, such as shared needles during drug use
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Tattoo or acupuncture with unclean needles
  • Shared personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors, with an infected person
  • Passed on to infant during childbirth from infected mother

In addition to being aware of how HBV can spread, it is important to understand risk factors that make you more susceptible to HBV infection. Risk factors for hepatitis B include:

  • Being infected with HIV
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Being born to parents infected with hepatitis B
  • Being born in regions with high infection rates (Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean)

How Is Hepatitis B Infection Diagnosed?

Hepatitis B can be difficult to diagnose early because it may not produce any symptoms. When your body’s immune system detects the infection, it mounts a systemic response to fight off the disease. In turn, this may produce symptoms characteristic of a viral infection, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice

If you believe you may have come into contact with the hepatitis B virus or are experiencing symptoms of HBV infection, it is important to undergo several diagnostic tests. The Center for GI Health offers state-of-the-art facilities and technology to test for HBV infection. The primary test for Hepatitis B is a blood test, which will detect the presence of specific HBV markers within your blood stream. Various other tests may be performed to test liver function .

Patients with hepatitis B should receive routine monitoring of the liver. In most patients, acute symptoms subside in a few weeks, with liver function returning to normal within a period of about six months. Some patients with hepatitis B will not be able to fight off the infection and develop chronic HBV. Chronic HBV infection can lead to more severe liver diseases, which may be treated accordingly:

  • Liver failure
  • Liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis (permanent scarring) of the liver

How Can You Prevent Hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective preventative treatment against HBV.  All children should receive the hepatitis B vaccine in a series of three shots by the age of six months. Anyone under the age of 19 who has not been vaccinated as well as those at high risk of infection should also get the hepatitis B vaccine. Infants born to mothers with HBV should receive a modified vaccination known as hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG). The hepatitis B vaccine and HBIG may help to prevent infection if given within 24 hours of exposure.

Many people with chronic hepatitis B have few symptoms and may not even look sick. As a result, they may not know they are infected. However, they can still spread the virus to other people. Lifestyle measures, including practicing safe sex and avoiding shared drug needles, can go a long way towards stopping the spread of hepatitis B.

If you or someone you know has experience symptoms associated with Hepatitis B, or if you think you may have been exposed, please contact Beverly Hills gastroenterologist Ari Nowain, MD by calling (310) 657-4444. Dr. Nowain is trained in the latest HBV treatment and prevention, as well as the treatment of liver disease that may result from HBV infection.