Managing Chronic Hepatitis B
Treatment for chronic hepatitis B is used to control viral replication, in order to prevent, halt and even reverse the progression of liver injury, but is not a cure. In general, people who are chronically infected but do not have any signs of current liver damage will not need treatment. However, it is important to closely monitor liver health with regular (6 – 12 monthly) check-ups.
When a person has signs of liver damage they should consider having treatment for hepatitis B. The decision on when to start treatment is complex and should be made in consultation with a gastroenterologist or GP with an interest in hepatitis B.
The Australian Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) funds several different medications to treat chronic hepatitis B. The most common are anti-viral medications taken as tablets each day for a year or longer. Currently, Entecavir and Tenofovir are first line treatment options for anti-viral therapy, and adherence is critical for the success of anti-viral therapy.
During treatment, the patient’s blood tests are monitored very carefully to look for signs of antiviral resistance. If there are signs of resistance such as elevated liver enzymes and high levels of hepatitis B virus in the blood the antiviral tablets will be changed.
PEG interferon is also sometimes used for treatment - it involves a weekly injection for up to a year. In some cases, it can control the virus in a third of patients without the for long-term treatment.
There are a number of things you could do to look after yourself and reduce the risk of liver damage:
- Stay in regular contact with your GP or liver specialist
- Reduce alcohol consumption, and avoid all together if liver shows signs of damage.
- Have a balanced healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Manage your stress and get support
To prevent passing hepatitis B onto others, please apply the following precautions in your household.
- Make sure people in your household are successfully vaccinated against hepatitis B
- Use condoms and practise safe sex
- Avoid sharing personal grooming items, to prevent blood-to-blood contact
- If you are pregnant or planning to, talk to your doctor and find out more from Mums-to-b brochure (available in multiple languages).
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