What You Need To Know About Hepatitis B

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More than 110 million Americans currently have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and over half of those who are diagnosed with new infections each year are between the ages of 15 and 24. Unfortunately, this age group may be among the least likely to seek out medical treatment for their conditions for a variety of reasons -- one them being that some forms of STDs involve no symptoms whatsoever, among them Hepatitis B. It's estimated that about one-third of those who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis B experienced no significant symptoms and that the existence of the virus was discovered only after a blood test was performed. Because Hepatitis B causes significant liver damage and can even be fatal in some cases, it's important to be to receive STD testing on a regular basis if you are sexually active. Following are several things you need to know about Hepatitis B.

It Can Be Prevented With a Vaccine

Unlike many other viral conditions, Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. If you are in a risk group for the development of this disease -- for instance, if you are a sex worker or have multiple partners, you should ask your health care professional about available vaccines. Hepatitis B can also be transmitted in ways besides sexual contact, such as exposure to blood or other body fluids to an open wound, cut, or sores on your skin. Food service workers or those who eat at establishments where an employee who prepares food is infected with Hepatitis B are also at risk.

Symptoms Vary

Those infected with Hepatitis B may experience jaundice; flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, fatigue, and general weakness; and joint pain. If you're sexually active or work in a profession that exposes you to the body fluids of others, don't wait for symptoms to show up -- get free STD testing regularly, or better yet, get vaccinated.

It Can Cause Serious Liver Damage

In many people, Hepatitis B runs its course in a matter of months, particularly if it has been detected early enough to implement an appropriate course of treatment. However, some people develop chronic cases of this disease that remains with them for life, although it does disappear on its own in a small number of people. Because there is no known cure for this condition, it's important for those who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis B to:

  • Avoid alcohol, acetaminophen, and tobacco
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid raw oysters and other uncooked shellfish, which may contain bacteria, because these foods have the potential to harm the liver
  • Discuss the use of any medications with their health care professional prior to using them, even over-the-counter and herbal remedies in order to ensure that they don't pose a risk of liver damage or react badly with any medication prescribed for Hepatitis B

You Can Live With Chronic Hepatitis B

It is important for those with chronic Hepatitis B to remember that even if they have recovered from the acute infection stage of this condition that they are still carriers of the disease. Precautions against transmitting it to others include avoiding sharing grooming instruments such as razors, nail files, and toothbrushes with others in your household. Don't share pierced earrings, keep cuts covered with clean bandages, wear condoms when you have sex, and apprise anyone doing domestic work in your home of your condition so that person can be extra vigilant about always wearing gloves while cleaning. Those who live with you and any sexual partners you may have should consider getting the Hepatitis B vaccine in order to maximize their chances of not coming down with this condition.