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Acute and Chronic Hepatitis B Infection

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Acute and Chronic Hepatitis B Infection

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Hepatitis B is a virus that predominantly affects the liver and may be cleared from the body and may go to chronic infection.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At January 18, 2019
Reviewed AtAugust 2, 2023


Hepatitis B is the virus that predominantly affects the liver. There are various routes of hepatitis B infection. The important causes of infection are contaminated needle prick, blood transfusions from an infected individual, unprotected sex, and maternal to child transmission.

Infection of hepatitis B may be cleared from the body and may go to chronic infection. In the majority of the patients, it gets cleared within 6 months of infection. For a few patients when it is not cleared from the circulation in the first 6 months, it usually clears by the end of a year. It rarely gets cleared after a year of infection.

What Is Acute Hepatitis B Infection?

Acute infection (infection less than 6 months), may or may not cause any harm to the liver. The grade of effect on the liver is varied, most of the time it does not cause significant harm. In a small number of cases, it causes acute hepatitis-like symptoms, and rarely it causes acute liver failure. The treatment of acute hepatitis is required in the case of acute liver failure or acute liver injury.

What Is Chronic Hepatitis B Infection?

If hepatitis B persists in the blood even after 6 months of infection, it is called as a chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis B may cause chronic liver damage and liver cirrhosis. Hepatitis B may cause liver cancer in a small proportion of the infected patient. Patients of chronic hepatitis B require treatment, which depends on multiple biomarkers, patient's clinical condition, and family history of hepatocellular malignancy.

How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of hepatitis B is made by detection of HBsAg, HBV DNA, HBeAg, anti-HBe, etc. Grading of the severity of liver disease is done by non-invasive (fibroscan, ultrasound) and invasive (liver biopsy) methods.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hepatitis?

When a person is initially infected with hepatitis B, it is an acute infection of hepatitis with symptoms ranging from no symptoms to liver failure. If this virus remains in the blood of the infected person for more than six months, it is referred to as a chronic infection of hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis is a serious lifelong disease.


What Is Acute Hepatitis B Infection?

Acute hepatitis B is a short-term disease that occurs within six months of initial exposure to the hepatitis B virus. Some affected people experience no symptoms at all to mild symptoms, while others experience severe symptoms that may require hospitalization.


What Are the Different Stages of Hepatitis B?

- Prodrome - This stage is characterized by symptoms such as low-grade fever, vomiting, nausea, malaise, fatigue, mild itching, and joint or muscle pain that usually last for a few days.
- Icteric Phase - This phase is characterized by yellow eyes, dark urine, and light-colored stools. This last for a few days to weeks. 
- Convalescence - This phase is characterized by gradual recovery.


How Long Does It Take to Recover From Acute Hepatitis B?

The immune system is likely to clear acute hepatitis B from the body, and the affected person recovers completely within a few months. However, in a few adults, acute hepatitis can lead to chronic hepatitis, which lasts longer.


Can Chronic Hepatitis B Be Cured?

Hepatitis B cannot be cured permanently, but effective medications have proven to slow the progression of the condition in the affected individual. Most affected people recover fully on their own.


Is Acute Hepatitis B Contagious?

Hepatitis B is a contagious condition that spreads through sexual contact with an infected person, sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection instruments, and from infected mother to baby.


Is Acute Hepatitis Life-Threatening?

Acute hepatitis B infection can cause serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms like liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver failure. But it is not the same for everybody. Some people with acute hepatitis B do not experience any symptoms.


Is There a Possibility of Recurrence of Acute Hepatitis B?

No, acute hepatitis B does not recur in patients infected with the hepatitis B virus in the past. However, some people infected with the hepatitis B virus in the past remained infected for life as their bodies never cleared the virus.


How to Diagnose Acute Hepatitis B?

Acute hepatitis B can be diagnosed by the following tests:
- Physical examination to look for signs of liver damage.
- Blood tests.
- Liver ultrasound.
- Liver biopsy.


Is Hepatitis B a Lifelong Condition?

Chronic hepatitis B can last a lifetime. This is because of the inability of the immune system of the affected person to fight the infection. For some, it may get cured in six months and for some, it lingers lifelong.


Is Acute Hepatitis B Curable?

There is no permanent cure for acute hepatitis B. However, specific medications can help relieve the symptoms, and certain precautions can prevent the spread of the infection. A vaccine is also available for the infection to prevent people from getting infected with hepatitis B.


Can People Infected With Hepatitis B Get Married?

People infected with hepatitis B can get married and live a normal life with certain precautions to prevent the spread to their partner. Transmission can be prevented as hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease. Future children should also be vaccinated.


What Things Should be Avoided by Patients With Hepatitis B?

People with hepatitis B should avoid the following things to maintain healthy liver:
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Avoid taking over-the-counter medications without consulting doctors.
- Avoid processed foods such as processed bread.
- Avoid hydrogenated oils and use healthy oils.
- Reduce sugar intake.
Dr. Babu Lal Meena
Dr. Babu Lal Meena

Medical Gastroenterology


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