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Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver".

Hepatitis B essentially means an infection with the Hepatitis B virus.

Hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis B virus size = 0.000 004cm


The symptoms of hepatitis B infection may manifest differently during acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis, and it may also vary among individuals.

Most infected people may not exhibit any symptoms for many years.

However, the absence of symptoms does not necessarily mean that the infection is under control.
Symptoms of acute infection are:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

Symptoms of significant liver damage may include:

  • Jaundice
  • A distended, fluid-filled abdomen (ascites)
  • Edema of the legs
  • Small, spider-like veins, usually on the chest and back (spider angiomas) 
  • Confusion
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract.
Is this infection common?

There are an estimated 300 million carriers of the hepatitis B virus around the world, with over 500,000 dying annually from HBV-related liver disease.

In Singapore, about 4% (1 in 25 persons) of the population has chronic hepatitis B infection.

What are the complications of Hepatitis B?

The liver is susceptible to damage by the hepatitis B virus. The extent of the damage is variable as this depends upon the liver's ability to repair itself as well as the body's immune system's ability to control the infection.

The complications of this infection include liver scarring (medically known as cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure.

All these complications are potentially life-threatening.
Who is at risk of Hepatitis B infection?
  • Sexually active individuals with multiple sex partners
  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Household contacts with individuals with hepatitis B
  • Intravenous drug users
  • Individuals undergoing Haemodialysis (treatment for kidney failure)
  • Individuals with chronic liver disease
  • Healthcare workers
How do I know if I have been infected with Hepatitis B?

The condition can be diagnosed with a blood test. 

HBsAg blood test (Hepatitis B surface Antigen) positivity for at least 2 occasions mean chronic infection with Hepatitis B.
A negative HBsAg would either imply that the person does not have Hepatitis B infection or had cleared an infection with Hepatitis B previously.
How do I prevent myself from being infected with Hepatitis B?

Vaccines that can effectively prevent infection are now available. Currently, newborns are routinely undergoing vaccination.

People who have never been infected by Hepatitis B can obtain immunity through vaccination. Those who are at risk of Hepatitis B infection are highly recommended to undergo vaccination.
What should I do if I have Hepatitis B?

Current medications for hepatitis B can effectively control the virus and prevent further damage to the liver. 

All persons with Hepatitis B should undergo regular medical follow-up. The purpose of which is to screen for liver cancer and any active liver inflammation. In general, most patients require a follow-up every six months, where an ultrasound will help to detect any suspicious lesions of liver cancer. Early detection of liver cancer plays a vital role in effective cure.

Blood tests include liver function tests to detect any liver inflammation. Alpha fetoprotein is a blood marker that can aid in the diagnosis of liver cancer.

Patients are advised to avoid alcohol and/or traditional medicines as these substances may cause additional liver damage.
Although a cure for hepatitis B is not yet available, we are actively engaged in various research studies to develop new generation of medications to eradicate the virus. You may discuss with your doctor if you are interested to find out more.
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