Hepatitis B is a viral infection caused by the hepatitis B virus and which can cause the liver to become inflamed, damaged, or even stop functioning. It is normally contracted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. There are a number of different hepatitis B treatments. In general, these treatments can be divided into three categories: those which are used to manage acute, or short-term, hepatitis B infections, those which are used to manage chronic, or long-term, hepatitis B infections, and those which are used to prevent infection by the hepatitis B virus.
Some hepatitis B treatments are used to manage acute hepatitis B infections. In most cases, an acute hepatitis B infection will eventually disappear without medical intervention. Thus, most acute hepatitis B treatments are aimed at the symptoms of the infection rather than the infection itself, and can be carried out at home.
Acute hepatitis B infections can cause nausea, fatigue, and reduced liver function. Thus, some of the most important treatment measures for an acute hepatitis B infection involve getting proper nutrition and adequate rest, and avoiding substances which are normally removed from the bloodstream by the liver, such as alcohol. As an acute hepatitis B infection is usually contagious, avoiding close contact with others should also be considered a key part of treatment.
In the case of chronic infections, on the other hand, hepatitis B treatments are generally aimed at preventing virus levels from increasing and controlling damage to the liver. A chronic hepatitis B infection may be active or inactive. Active infections put the infected person at risk for liver damage, and put those around him at risk for contracting the virus. Those with active chronic hepatitis B infections are often given antiviral medications which discourage the virus from multiplying further. This in turn decreases the risk of liver damage as well as the possibility of passing the virus to others.
If the liver has been severely scarred by a chronic hepatitis B infection, it may lose its ability to perform vital bodily functions. This condition is known as cirrhosis of the liver. Individuals who have developed cirrhosis may require a liver transplant to survive.
Finally, some hepatitis B treatments are actually preventive measures which reduce the chances of infection by the hepatitis B virus. Among these treatments is a three-part hepatitis B vaccine which can create immunity to the hepatitis B virus. This vaccine is often recommended for those in close contact with an infected individual.
Those who believe they have been directly exposed to the hepatitis B virus through situations such as sexual contact with an infected person may be given an injection of a substance called hepatitis B immune globulin. This substance may prevent infection by the hepatitis B virus. It is most effective when administered shortly after exposure to the virus, however. Thus, those who suspect direct exposure should contact a physician as soon as possible.