Treating Hepatitis and Taking Care After That

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis is an infection of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. It is commonly caused by viral infection with Hepatitis B virus. The virus is transmitted through body fluids. Injection, drug abuse, having sex with an infected partner and sharing razors with an infected person increases the risk of getting hepatitis.

What happens if you are infected with Hepatitis B?

The natural course of the disease will vary from patient to patient. The first 6 months a person becomes infected, is called Acute Hepatitis. Common symptoms are fatigue, dark urine, pale stool, flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, weight loss, and jaundice. The diagnosis is confirmed by blood tests and liver function tests. Acute hepatitis does not require any specific treatment. Only rest, fluid intake and good nutrition can help the patient recover.

The virus is cleared from the body within 6 months in 90% cases. However, in 10% population, the immune system is unable to clear the virus. Hepatitis B infection persists and is termed Chronic Hepatitis.

How to treat Hepatitis B?

The goals of treatment are to improve quality of life and prevent disease progression. The drugs prevent mother to child transmission and hepatitis B reactivation. The hepatitis B treatment protocol involves

  1. Regular blood tests, liver function tests and diagnostic imaging to assess the activity of the Hepatitis B virus and monitor the liver condition.
  2. Nucleos(t)ide analogs suppress the multiplication of virus and stabilize the liver disease by preventing its progression. They reduce the risk of developing liver cancer. These drugs can be safely used and are given in cases of Chronic Hepatitis with decompensated liver disease, liver transplants, extrahepatic manifestations. The current medicines include lamivudine (LAM), adefovir dipivoxil (ADV), entecavir (ETV), telbivudine (TBV), tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and tenofovir alafenamide (TAF).
  3. Pegylated interferons (PEG-IFN) modify the patient’s immune response to the virus. The main advantage is they are used for a finite period. On the flip side, they have serious side effects like depression, paraesthesia, myelosuppression, and other influenza-like symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and weight loss.

What precautions to take after treatment?

  1. The patient must follow standard hygienic practices to ensure that close contacts are not directly contaminated by his or her blood or other body fluids. They should not share razors, toothbrushes or any other object that may become contaminated with blood.
  2. Susceptible household members, particularly sexual partners, should be immunized with hepatitis B vaccine.
  3. It is important to inform dentist and health care providers of your condition.
  4. Avoid fatty foods and eat a balanced diet. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited. Check with your physician before taking any over the counter medicine as hepatitis makes it difficult for the liver to process drugs and alcohol. Drinking adequate fluids to maintain good hydration.
  5. Itchy skin is a common manifestation of hepatitis. The patients can keep it under control by wearing cotton clothes, keeping out of the sun and using moisturizers.