Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, called HBV for short. The liver has an important function in the breakdown and removal of waste products from the body and is located in the abdominal cavity, right below the costal arch. The virus is spread through blood.

Hepatitis B is considered to be one of the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but it can also be transmitted in other ways, such as through an injection with an infected needle. This can happen in health care, but also through the use of contaminated needles for tattoos or drug use.

See also: Everythings about Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B symptoms

The first symptoms appear about three months (90 days) after infection. These could be:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Joint complaints
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and yellow whites of the eyes)
  • Skin rash
  • Dark urine in combination with light to discolored stools
  • Nausea
  • Full feeling in the upper abdomen
  • Decreased appetite

Usually the complaints subside or disappear after a few weeks to months. Complaints of fatigue can last longer. In some people, the infection proceeds without symptoms and in some cases the infection is very serious or even fatal.

How does hepatitis B develop?

Hepatitis B is caused by an infection with the hepatitis B virus. Most infections occur during unprotected sex with someone who has the virus. You can also become infected when your blood comes in contact with the blood of someone who is carrying the virus. The blood of a person infected with hepatitis B must then enter your bloodstream. This can happen, for example, through blood transfusions, tattoos, piercings, infected needles (for example with drug users or health care workers),and contaminated medical equipment. A common use of razor blades and toothbrushes can also lead to contamination.

There is a high chance that a child of a mother who is a carrier will be infected during pregnancy or childbirth. Infection by blood transfusion is not possible in the Netherlands, because donated blood is examined for the presence of hepatitis.

When someone in your area has hepatitis B, you can normally interact with this person. No contamination takes place through the air or skin. You can just touch, hug or kiss this person.

Is it serious and what can you expect?

After going through a hepatitis B infection, three situations can arise:

  • Complete healing
  • Chronic infection
  • Carrier status

Regular blood tests will need to be done to find out which situation applies to you.

Complete cure

Ninety percent of people who have contracted hepatitis B are cured spontaneously after six months. So there is no need for treatment for them. Apart from complaints of fatigue, there are often no complaints anymore and the virus has disappeared from the body. There is then no longer any contagiousness.

Chronic inflammation

 In a number of people, the body fails to remove the virus. The virus remains in the body and causes chronic inflammation of the liver. The complaints subside somewhat, but the fatigue persists. There is then still contagiousness. Chronic inflammation can eventually lead to irreversible changes in the liver, such as cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. In a small number of people with chronic inflammation (about one percent per year), the virus is later removed by the body. In principle, people with chronic hepatitis B should be treated long-term and monitored for life. The treatment takes place in special hepatitis treatment centers.

Carrier status Nearly ten percent of people with hepatitis B continue to carry the virus without any symptoms of disease or liver abnormalities. The virus is then present in the body, but ‘does’ nothing. These people are regularly checked to see if the virus becomes active again. Sometimes the virus eventually disappears from the body.

Research has shown that after ten to twenty years liver damage can also occur in carriers.

When to the doctor?

Please contact your general practice in the following cases:

  • You have had sexual contact with, or suspect of, hepatitis B or the virus;
  • You have injected drugs with a needle that has already been used by one or more other people;
  • You have pricked yourself on a used needle;
  • You are concerned about a possible contamination.

Even if you have complaints that are characteristic of a hepatitis B infection, it is of course important to always contact your general practitioner. You can find these complaints and phenomena under the heading ‘ How do you recognize it? “.

If you are indeed diagnosed with hepatitis B, the doctor is obliged to report this to the GG&GD. The GG&GD will inform you about how you can avoid infecting others. In addition, a so-called source and contract detection is carried out, in which it is ascertained from whom you could have got the disease and to whom you can have already reported the disease. These people will be contacted (not mentioning your name) to say that they may have had contact with someone with hepatitis B and that they can report for an investigation.

What can you do about it yourself?

Once you have hepatitis B, you cannot do it yourself to cure or expedite the cure. There are a number of things to keep in mind:

  • Since alcohol enhances liver damage, it is important to avoid alcoholic drinks.
  • Before you use medicines, even if you have bought them yourself at a pharmacy or drug store, it is important that you consider whether you can use them. The liver plays an important role in the absorption and excretion of medicines. A damaged liver is less able to do this, which can lead to too low or too high a concentration of medicines. These can be harmful to your health.

General advice and precautions

There is a good and safe vaccine against this disease, which is recommended in people with an increased risk of hepatitis B infection (for example travelers to certain areas outside Europe, children with Down syndrome, health care personnel). Your GP, the GG&GD or a tropical vaccination center can inform you about measures to prevent this form of hepatitis.

For several years, the hepatitis B vaccination has been included in the National Vaccination Program, ie all babies are vaccinated against hepatitis B. After vaccination, there is lifelong protection.

Source : Drs. FM Brouwer

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