Treatment for hepatitis B depends on how long you've been infected for:

Emergency treatment can also be given soon after possible exposure to the hepatitis B virus to stop an infection developing.

Emergency hepatitis B treatment

See your GP as soon as possible if you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus.

To help stop you becoming infected, they can give you:

  • a dose of the hepatitis B vaccine you'll also need two further doses over the next few months to give you long-term protection
  • hepatitis B immunoglobulin a preparation of antibodies that work against the hepatitis B virus and can offer immediate but short-term protection until the vaccine starts to take effect

These are most effective if given within 48 hours after possible exposure to hepatitis B,but you can still have them up to a week after exposure.

Treatment for acute hepatitis B

If you're diagnosed with hepatitis B, your GP will usually refer you toa specialist, such as a hepatologist (liver specialist).

Many people don't have any troublesome symptoms, but if you do feel unwell, it can help to:

  • get plenty of rest
  • take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or Painkillers, ibuprofen , for tummy (abdominal) pain
  • maintain a cool, well-ventilated environment, wear loose clothing, and avoid hot baths or showers if itching is a problem
  • take medicationsuch asmetoclopramide to stop you feeling sick and chlorphenamine to reduce itching your doctor can give youa prescription for these if necessary

Most people recover completely in a couple of months, but you'll be advised to have regular blood tests to checkthat you're free of the virus and haven't developed chronic hepatitis B.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B

If blood tests show that you still have hepatitis B after six months, your doctor may recommend medication to reduce the risk of complications of hepatitis B andregular tests to assess thehealth of your liver.

Treatment is usually offered if:

  • your immune system is unable to control the hepatitis Bbyitself
  • there's evidence of ongoing liver damage

Hepatitis Bmedicationscan help keep the virus under control and stop it damagingyour liver, althoughthey won'tnecessarily cure the infection and some people need lifelong treatment.

The main medicines for chronic hepatitis B are outlined below.

Peginterferon alfa-2a

If your liver is working fairly well, the first treatment offered is usually a medicine calledpeginterferon alfa 2-a.

This stimulates the immune system to attack the hepatitis B virus and regain control over it. It's usually given by injection once a week for 48 weeks.

Common side effects includeflu-like symptoms, such as afever and muscle and joint pain, after you startto take the medicine, although these should improve with time.

Tests will be carried out during treatment to see how wellit's working. Alternative medicines may be recommended if it's not helping.

Antiviral medicines

Ifyour liver isn't working well, or peginterferon alpha-2a is not suitable or not working for you, your doctor may recommend trying antiviral medication instead.

Thiswillusuallybe either tenofoviror entecavir, both of whichare taken as tablets.

Common side effects of these medicines include feeling sick, vomiting and dizziness .

Living with hepatitis B

If you have hepatitis, you should:

  • avoid having unprotected sex including anal and oral sex, unless you're sure your partner hasbeen vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • avoid sharing needles used to inject drugs with other people
  • take precautions to avoid the spread of infection such asnot sharing toothbrushes or razors with other people; close contacts such as family members may need to be vaccinated
  • eat a generally healthy, balanced diet there's no special diet for people with hepatitis B
  • avoid drinking alcohol this can increase your risk of developing serious liver problems
  • speak to your doctor if you're thinking of having a baby

People with hepatitis B can usually have a healthy pregnancy, but it's a good idea to discuss your plans with a doctor first as you may need extra care and your medications may need to be changed.

There's a risk of pregnant women with hepatitis B passing the infection onto their child around the time of the birth, but this risk can be reduced by ensuring the baby is vaccinated shortly after they're born.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016