Patients with acute hepatitis B usually recover without intervention. Your doctor will discuss with you whether you need a course of medication or other treatment.
Patients with chronic hepatitis B need to follow a course of treatment. There is no cure, but treatment aims to suppress the virus and reduce the likelihood of long-term complications.
Hepatitis B Prevention
There are a number of ways to protect against hepatitis B virus:
Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG). This is an injection you can get if you were in close contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccine . In the United States, this vaccine is often given at birth and is part of the standard immunization schedule. The vaccine is also recommended for those in high-risk groups, including:
- Pregnant women
- Health care workers
- Intravenous drug users
- Men who have sex with men
- People with chronic liver disease
- People born in areas with high rates of hepatitis B
- Those with multiple sexual partners or a history of sexually transmitted disease
HBsAg screening. Pregnant women are screened for the presence of this antigen.
Hepatitis B and Pregnancy
Because their immune systems aren’t fully developed, infants and young children are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B, so it’s important to limit their exposure to the virus. All expecting women should be screened for hepatitis B. If a high viral load is detected through testing, your doctor will initiate treatment during your third trimester to reduce the likelihood that your baby will contract the disease during delivery.
Additionally, the infants of mothers with hepatitis B should receive the hepatitis B vaccination series and immune globulins at birth so they do not develop hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B Treatment: Medication
There are five FDA-approved oral medications and one injection available to treat hepatitis B. The newer oral medications are stronger and less likely to develop viral resistance and have very few side effects.
The medication cannot cure the disease, but can help reduce the number of viruses in the body and the risk of complications. You may undergo periodic blood tests to monitor drug resistance and determine whether the medication is having an effect.
Hepatitis B Treatment: Liver Transplant
A referral for a liver transplant evaluation may be needed if chronic hepatitis B infection leads to cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver), liver cancer or end stage liver disease and its complications. Rarely, acute hepatitis B can lead to severe liver failure which requires liver transplantation.