25. 03. 2020
Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver resulting in liver inflammation. It is a global health problem affecting an estimated 250 million people worldwide , with about 600,000 patients dying every year from Hepatitis B related liver condition. In Singapore, the prevalence or number of patients with Hepatitis B is roughly about 180,000 people, or 3.6% of the current population.
Hepatitis B can be categorized into acute and chronic Hepatitis B. Acute Hepatitis B is a short term illness that happens upon exposure to the virus. If this persists for longer than 6 months then the person will be labelled as having chronic Hepatitis B. Most patients with acute Hepatitis B have minimal symptoms, such as low grade fever, muscle aches and tiredness. Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes) may also happen but is rarer. Serious presentation of acute Hepatitis B, also known as liver failure is quite rare (0.1%). Liver failure cases must be managed intensively in a liver specialist unit as an organ transplant may be necessary to save the patient.
Hepatitis B is diagnosed by blood tests called HBsAg and anti-HBs. In some other cases, patients are incidentally found to have liver inflammation on liver function test and diagnosed to have Hepatitis B infection subsequently. Once you have been diagnosed with Hepatitis B, you will need to be followed up by your doctor as patients are at risk of developing serious liver inflammation (requiring medication), liver cirrhosis (hardening) and liver cancer. Complex Hepatitis B patients (e.g. those on treatment or with complication such as liver cirrhosis) should ideally be taken care of by a specialist / Gastroenterologist.
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