What are the Effects of Hepatitis B on the Liver?

Jeremy Laukkonen

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a virus that targets the livers of humans and various other hominoids. The primary effect of hepatitis B on the liver is typically the swelling of that organ. This inflammation may be experienced with all types of hepatitis, regardless of cause. In addition to inflammation, the effects of untreated hepatitis B on the liver can include serious conditions, like cirrhosis and cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma and liver cirrhosis typically don't manifest until HBV has caused many years of chronic inflammation.

Types of liver disease, including cirrhosis, a complication of hepatitis.
Types of liver disease, including cirrhosis, a complication of hepatitis.

An acute form of HBV will typically progress through symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and jaundice before clearing up after a few weeks have passed. It is also possible for the illness to be asymptomatic. In other cases, there may be more severe strains placed by hepatitis B on the liver. This can result in acute liver failure and death.

A human liver.
A human liver.

Chronic infection of HBV be asymptomatic as well, or may lead to the sort of inflammation that can cause numerous other problems. Prolonged liver inflammation can ultimately lead to cirrhosis, which is a condition where healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue and fibrosis. This effect of hepatitis B on the liver can reduce the ability of the organ to function properly. Many people that reach this stage are unable to drink alcoholic beverages without risking further complications.

Liver cancer is another possible result of the prolonged inflammation that often comes with chronic hepatitis infection. Incidences of hepatocellular carcinoma may be higher in individuals that suffer from chronic hepatitis. If cirrhosis is experienced, this may increase the risk factor as well.

Adverse effects of hepatitis B on the liver may also lead to complications with other organs. The presence of HBV may lead to other diseases such as membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN), which is can affect the kidneys. One of the causes of this disease involves HBV antibodies binding to antigens and subsequently being deposited on important kidney structures known as glomeruli. This can potentially lead to renal failure.

Infection from the hepatitis D virus (HDV) may also result from HBV infection. It is impossible to become infected with HDV if an HBV infection is not also present. Many of the effects of hepatitis D are similar to those of hepatitis B, though they may be more severe. Progression to cirrhosis or cancer may occur more quickly, and the death rate of patients with HDV is higher than those with other forms of hepatitis virus.

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