Testing for Hepatitis B
Treatment Options for Acute and Chronic Hepatitis B
If you receive a positive test for hepatitis B, you may have either an acute (new) or chronic infection. Most people’s bodies can clear acute hepatitis B within a few weeks. However, if the virus remains in the blood for over six months, it has progressed to the chronic infection stage.
The risk of developing chronic hepatitis B is directly related to the age of exposure to the virus. The younger you are when exposed, the greater the chance you have of developing chronic hepatitis B.
This risk is greatest for infants and young children. Infants exposed to the virus (at birth, for instance) have a very high chance of developing a chronic infection. About 50% of children aged one to five will develop the chronic variety of hepatitis B.
Only about 5% to 10% of healthy adults aged 19 and up will develop chronic hepatitis B. That means you have about a 90% chance of recovery.
If you have acute hepatitis B, advanced treatment is typically not needed. Simply focus on staying as healthy and comfortable as you can. Get plenty of rest, and drink ample water to stave off dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. It’s also wise to avoid alcohol and tobacco.
Your doctor may choose to prescribe immune modulator drugs to help your body get rid of the virus in some cases. You’ll typically take these drugs for six months to one year.
In very rare cases, a life-threatening condition called fulminant hepatitis can develop. This requires immediate medical attention because sudden liver failure can occur.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with chronic hepatitis B, you may need treatment for the rest of your life. Thankfully, with this treatment, you can still live a long and healthy life.
People with chronic hepatitis B have two main treatment options: antiviral medications or interferon injections.
Antiviral drug options include adefovir (Hepsera), tenofovir (Viread), lamivudine (Epivir), and entecavir (Baraclude). Of these, Viread and Baraclude are considered first-line treatments for most patients. These drugs slow down or stop the virus from producing, which can limit liver damage.
Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe interferon injections if you have signs of liver damage. These injections may cause side effects such as headaches and depression.