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How to Treat Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the Liver through a virus known as HBV. Although a vaccine does exist, no cure as of yet does. Luckily, most people can be diagnosed early and successfully treated. If the infection becomes chronic, it is important to prevent and minimize liver damage. However, when appropriately treated, the prognosis is usually very good.[1]

EditSteps

EditObtaining Preventative Care after Exposure

  1. Understand the causes of hepatitis B so that you can seek treatment immediately if you have been exposed. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood, saliva, semen, or other bodily fluids. Common causes of transmission include:[2]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 1 Version 3.jpg
    • Sexual contact with an infected partner. Transmission can occur via blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and saliva.
    • Transmission through infected needles. This includes people who may be sharing needles for intravenous drug use and it includes health care workers who may be at risk of accidental needle sticks.
    • Transmission during childbirth. If the mother is infected, she may transmit it to her infant during birth. However, if the mother knows that she is infected, the infant can be vaccinated upon birth.
  2. Obtain preventative care if you believe you have been exposed. If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis B, see a doctor immediately. If you receive care within 12 hours, it may prevent the infection. You doctor will likely do the following:[3]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 2 Version 3.jpg
    • Give you an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin to boost your immune response
    • Vaccinate you against hepatitis B
  3. Look for the symptoms of a hepatitis B infection. Symptoms usually start one to four months after the initial exposure. Symptoms may include:[4]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 3 Version 3.jpg
    • Abdominal pain
    • Dark urine
    • Fever
    • Joint pain
    • Not being hungry
    • Vomiting and nausea
    • Feeling weak and tired
    • Jaundice (your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellowish)

EditGetting Medical Care for Hepatitis B

  1. See a gastroenterologist or an infectious disease expert to be tested for hepatitis B. The doctor may do several tests.[5]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 4 Version 3.jpg
    • The doctor will confirm the presence of the virus with a blood test and whether it is acute or chronic.
    • The doctor might also do a liver biopsy to see if you have liver damage. This involves removing a very small piece of liver tissue through a thin needle and analyzing the tissue in the lab.
  2. Treat acute hepatitis B. Most cases of hepatitis B are acute. Acute cases of hepatitis B, contrary to what the name might suggest, are infections that will go away on their own. 95% of cases will clear on their own and the illness illness typically goes away within a few weeks and liver function is normal within six months. [6][7]Treatment is usually not indicated in the acute stage.
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • Get plenty of bed rest, drink lots of fluids, and stick with healthy foods. This will help your body clear the virus efficiently.[8]
    • If you are in pain, discuss what painkillers your doctor recommends, even for over the counter medications (acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen) or herbal supplements. You don’t want to take anything that will be hard on your liver.[9]
    • Schedule follow-up blood tests with your doctor to track the natural course of the infection. These blood tests will help your doctor determine whether the virus is being cleared.
    • If your liver is becoming damaged, your doctor may recommend lamivudine (Epivir).[10]
  3. Determine whether you need to begin treatment for chronic hepatitis B. If your body has not cleared the virus within a few months, you may have chronic hepatitis B. Your doctor is likely to prescribe medications if you show the following symptoms:[11]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • High virus levels in your blood
    • Decreasing liver function
    • Signs of long-term liver damage and scarring (cirrhosis)
  4. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor. There are several possibilities depending upon your age and circumstances.[12]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • Antiviral medications can reduce the viral load in your body. Possibilities include lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera), telbivudine (Tyzeka) and entecavir (Baraclude). These medications will slow the progression of the disease and decrease your chances of sustaining liver damage.[13][14]
    • Interferon-alpha is a medication which contains a synthetic version of the protein your body makes to fight the virus. This option is often given to younger people who may want to become pregnant in the next few years and do not want to have a long treatment process. However, it has significant side effects including depression, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, breathing problems, a tight feeling in the chest, and hair loss.[15][16]
    • Nucleoside/nucleotide analogues are substances that prevent the virus from replicating. Some well known ones include adefovir (Hepsera), entecavir (Baraclude), lamivudine (Epivir-HBV, Heptovir, Heptodin), telbivudine (Tyzeka) and tenofovir (Viread). However, these medications have a serious drawback in that the virus may mutate and develop resistance to these drugs after several years of use.[17]
  5. Discuss a liver transplant if your liver is severely damaged and in danger of failing. If necessary a surgeon can remove your liver and replace it with a healthy one.
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    • Sometimes a piece of a healthy liver from a living donor may be used.

EditLiving With Hepatitis B

  1. Understand the limits of the treatments. Even though medications can reduce the number of viruses in the blood to nearly zero, low numbers of the virus still live in the liver and elsewhere.[18]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 9.jpg
    • Monitor yourself for resurgences of the disease and if you feel the symptoms returning, go to the doctor immediately.
    • Ask your doctor what he or she recommends for long-term follow up.
  2. Take steps to avoid transmitting the disease to others. It won’t spread through casual contact, but it could through the exchange of bodily fluids.[19]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 10.jpg
    • Be open with your partner and encourage him or her to get tested and vaccinated.
    • Use a condom during sex to reduce the risk of transmission.
    • Don’t share needles, syringes, razors or toothbrushes, all of which could have small amounts of infected blood on them.
  3. Avoid ingesting substances that may further damage or burden your liver. This includes alcohol, recreational drugs, and over the counter drugs or supplements.[20][21]
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 11.jpg
    • Alcohol itself can damage the liver, so you should abstain from drinking alcohol to protect your liver while your body fights the infection.
    • Avoid recreational drugs which may cause liver damage.
    • Ask your doctor which over the counter medications you can take for mild conditions like a cold, flu, or headache. Even over the counter medications may burden your liver when it is in a damaged or vulnerable state.
  4. Maintain your social support network. You will not infect friends through casual contact and the social support is important for your psychological and physical health.
    Treat Hepatitis B Step 12.jpg
    • Seek out support groups for people with liver disease.[22]
    • Remind yourself that with appropriate treatment and monitoring, the prognosis for people with hepatitis B is usually very good.

EditSources and Citations


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How to Treat Hepatitis B

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