Daniel L. Motola MD, PhD is a Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist (Liver specialist) in NYC offering comprehensive evaluation and treatment for Hepatitis B (HBV) infection.
Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver and can lead to liver inflammation, liver scarring or fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Chronic infection is a condition in which the infection last more than 6 months and a protein called the HBV surface antigen (HBV sAg) is detectable in the blood.
Chronic HBV occurs after infection via blood-to-blood contact with an infected individual. The most common modes of transmission are from mother-to-child during child birth, from unprotected sexual activity, and after needle sharing during injection drug use.
Those at highest risk of infection include those born to mothers infected with HBV particularly in patients born in areas of the world with high numbers of infected patients such as Central Asia, China, Japan, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. There is a smaller number of patients infected in the United States, Canada and Western Europe, comparatively.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B infection range from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to liver cirrhosis and liver failure, which can present with yellowing of the eyes, confusion, bleeding, and fluid accumulation (i.e. ascites and edema).
Yes, cancer of the liver, also known as Hepatocellular Carcinoma, can occur in patients with Chronic HBV infection. Some patients require more close monitoring for early detection than others and this depends on ethnicity, age, sex, stage of the disease, and level of viral activity. A Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist (Liver Specialist) can identify those that require close monitoring.
Hepatitis B infection can be acute (infection present for less than 6 months) or chronic (greater than 6 months). Blood tests help distinguish between acute infection and chronic infection. Diagnosis requires careful interpretation of test results by a Gastroenterologist or Hepatologist.
Some patients with hepatitis B infection do not require treatment as the virus may clear itself, such as in the case of acute infection in an adult. Only close monitoring is required. However, patients who are chronically infected may require treatment, when indicated, with anti-viral medications taken daily.
Patients who are not yet candidates for treatment should be closely monitored regularly with blood testing. This is important as the stage of infection can change as an individual gets older.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Hepatitis B. The virus can be suppressed with once daily dosing of a medication that has few side effects.
Yes, a vaccine exists to protect against HBV. Anyone can receive the vaccine, but it is particularly important for non-immune partners of infected individuals, children born to infected mothers, health care workers, HIV infected individual and men who have sex with men to receive the immunization. It’s a three-shot series of vaccinations.