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How is hepatitis B treated?

Treatment for the hepatitis B virus (HBV) includes antiviral or immunomodulatory therapy with nucleosides, nucleotides, and interferon-alpha. Currently approved therapies include standard interferon, lamivudine, adefovir, and entecavir. Pegylated interferon is being evaluated as a treatment option.
It depends on whether you have a case of acute or chronic hepatitis B (HBV). Generally acute HBV clears on its own. It may take several weeks before you feel better, though.

Once your condition becomes chronic (it doesn't go away), you will probably be prescribed medication. There are several medications for this condition, so discuss your options with your doctor.

There is no treatment for acute HBV infection. Chronic infection can be treated with antiviral drugs. Individuals with chronic HBV infection need to be assessed regularly to determine whether the disease is arrested or progressing, and to determine whether the liver is damaged.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is treated with antiviral or immunomodulatory therapy. Currently approved therapies include standard interferon, lamivudine, adefovir, and entecavir. In 2011,  the vast majority of people with hepatitis B can be cleared of the virus with medications. 

Hepatitis B is usually not treated unless it becomes chronic.

Chronic hepatitis B is treated with drugs that slow or stop the virus from damaging the liver. The length of treatment varies. Your doctor will help you decide which drug or drug combination is likely to work for you and will closely watch your symptoms to make sure the treatment is working.

Drugs given by injection include:

  • Interferon
  • Peginterferon

Drugs taken orally include:

  • Lamivudine
  • Telbivudine
  • Adefovir
  • Entecavir

A liver transplant may be necessary if chronic hepatitis B causes liver failure. Liver transplantation surgery replaces a failed liver with a healthy one from a donor. Medicines taken after surgery can prevent hepatitis B from recurring.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

There are a variety of treatments for hepatitis B, most of which are long-term. Watch this video featuring liver transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Brown to learn about two medications that suppress the virus in 90 percent of patients.

Dr. Robert Brown - How is hepatitis B treated?
Treatment for hepatitis B will depend upon the severity of the infection. In many cases of acute (short-term) hepatitis B infection, symptoms subside within weeks or months with no damage to the liver. Your doctor may want to monitor your liver using liver function tests until your liver is fully recovered. If you have chronic hepatitis B, your doctor will need to treat your infection with antiviral medications to slow the progression of the infection and help prevent severe long-term liver damage. In severe cases of chronic hepatitis B that leads to liver failure or liver cancer, a liver transplant may be needed.
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Generally, there is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. In cases of severe acute hepatitis B, your healthcare provider may recommend nucleoside/nucleotide treatment to try to prevent progression to liver failure.

Anyone who has been in contact with someone who has acute hepatitis B may require treatment with hepatitis B immune globulin and/or hepatitis B vaccine. If you suspect you've just been exposed and potentially infected with the hepatitis B virus, call your doctor right away. An injection of hepatitis B immune globulin and vaccine within a short time after exposure can help protect you against the virus.

If your doctor determines that your hepatitis B infection is chronic, he or she may prescribe medications to help your body fight the virus and prevent liver damage. Not everyone with chronic infection needs medication.

If your doctor determines you need medication, you will be prescribed a drug or combination of drugs to help slow or stop the virus from damaging your liver. Your doctor will decide which drug or drugs are likely to work for you and will then monitor your symptoms while you are taking medication to make sure the treatment is working.

The following medications are used to treat chronic hepatitis B:

Drugs given by injection:
  • interferon alfa-2b (Intron A)
  • peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys)
Drugs taken orally:
  • lamivudine (Epivir-HBV, Zeffix, Heptodin)
  • adefovir (Hepsera)
  • entecavir (Baraclude)
  • telbivudine (Tyzeka, Sebivo)
If your liver is severely damaged as a result of a chronic hepatitis B infection, you may need a liver transplant, where a surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy one.

As a preventive measure, you should avoid alcohol and cigarettes. You should also get vaccinated against hepatitis A. In addition, talk to your doctor before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medication, including herbal remedies.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.