Treatment of hepatitis B infection depends on how active the virus is and whether you are at risk for liver damage such as cirrhosis.
Treatment of short-term (acute) hepatitis B
Treatment depends on whether you:
- Have been recently infected with the virus.
- Have the symptoms of an acute infection.
- Have chronic infection.
If you have not gotten a hepatitis B vaccine and think you may have been exposed to the virus, you should get a shot of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) and the first of three shots of the hepatitis B vaccine(What is a PDF document?). It is important to receive this treatment within 7 days after a needle stick and within 2 weeks after sexual contact that may have exposed you to the virus. The sooner you receive treatment after exposure, the better the treatment works.
If you have the symptoms of acute infection, treatment with antiviral medicine usually isn't needed. Home treatment-such as eating well, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding alcohol and drugs- usually will relieve your symptoms.
In some cases, you may be given medicine to treat an acute infection. But using medicine usually isn't done unless a person is very sick.
Treatment of long-term (chronic) hepatitis B
Treatment depends on how active the virus is in your body and your chance of liver damage. The goal of treatment is to stop liver damage by keeping the virus from multiplying.
Antiviral medicine is used if the virus is active and you are at risk for liver damage. Medicine slows the ability of the virus to multiply.
Antiviral treatment isn't given to everyone who has chronic hepatitis B.
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Whether or not you take medicine, you will need to visit your doctor regularly. He or she will do blood tests to check your liver and the activity of the hepatitis B virus in your body.
Some of the tests can find out whether the virus is multiplying in your liver, which would increase your risk of liver damage.
If you develop advanced liver damage and your condition becomes life-threatening, you may need a liver transplant. But not everyone is a good candidate for a liver transplant.