Hepatitis B is a serious but vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual contact or sharing of needles.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), and unexplained fatigue. The incubation period for hepatitis B is between 60 and 150 days, and many patients with the disease do not feel any of the symptoms unless it progresses.
If you suspect that you have had HBV exposure and you have not been vaccinated, see your doctor right away. They will do a thorough examination and order blood tests to detect whether you are infected and determine what type of infection you have, whether acute or chronic.
Below is an outline of the treatments available for hepatitis B.
Postexposure Prophylactic Treatment for Hepatitis B
Your doctor may administer immunoglobulin, which helps you fight the virus if you’ve had exposure to it just within the last 12 hours. Since immunoglobulin can only provide you with short-term protection, your doctor will also likely give you a hepatitis B vaccine for added protection.
Acute Hepatitis B Treatment
If your doctor determines that you have an acute hepatitis B infection, they may not recommend treatment, as the disease will just resolve on its own (within six months or less). Instead, they may only advise that you take a rest, drink plenty of water, and eat a healthy diet.
Acute hepatitis B, however, can take a severe course and result in acute liver failure. In such a case, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs or recommend a hospital stay to minimize your risk of complications.
Chronic Hepatitis B Treatment
If you have been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, you will likely need treatment for the rest of your life to reduce your risk of liver damage and prevent you from passing the infection to others.
Your doctor may recommend any of the following, whichever they deem is most suitable for you:
- Interferon Injections
A synthetic version of a substance naturally produced by the body to strengthen the immune system and ward off infection, Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A) is primarily administered in young people who want to avoid long-term treatment or women who might want to get pregnant within a few years.
Side effects of Interferon include breathing problems, depression, nausea, and vomiting.
The drug is contraindicated in pregnant women.
- Antiviral Medications
If Interferon is not suitable or working for you, or your liver is not functioning well, your doctor may instead prescribe antiviral medication (tenofovir or entecavir), which is taken orally.
Common side effects of these antiviral medications include dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
- Liver Transplant
If HBV has caused irreversible liver damage, your doctor may recommend a liver transplant, which will likely come from a deceased donor.
Hepatitis B Treatment in Central Texas
At Austin Gastroenterology, patient-focused care is the cornerstone of our practice, and thus, your experience with us, comfort, convenience, and treatment outcomes are our top priority.
Our board-certified gastroenterologists are committed to providing effective solutions to help our patients take full control of—or even reverse—their GI and liver conditions and live an excellent quality of life.
To schedule a consultation with one of our GI experts, call us at (512) 244-2273 (north offices), (512) 454-4588 (central offices), and (512) 448-4588 (south offices). You may also use this convenient form to arrange an appointment. For your added convenience, we also offer telehealth services.