Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). At times, hepatitis B infection can become chronic and increase a person’s risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis, which can eventually lead to death. This can be prevented by early detection and treatment.
If you or anyone close has been diagnosed with hepatitis B, remember that you are not alone. In Singapore, about 1 in 25 persons of the population have chronic hepatitis B infection. It can be confusing and overwhelming when someone receives their diagnosis of hepatitis B. Here is what you should do if you are tested positive for hepatitis B.
1. Understanding your test results
Understanding the hepatitis B test results can sometimes be confusing. To understand your test results and your hepatitis status, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider and clear any doubts. Are you infected? Are you at risk? Is it an acute or chronic infection? A simple blood test called an abnormal liver function test can help answer some of those questions.
You can get infected with viral hepatitis B through sexual transmission from your partner or exposure to blood from an infected person. For example, drug abusers can get infected by sharing contaminated needles. Majority of healthy patients who have an acute infection can leave the body to get rid of the infection itself with ample rest and hydration. However, if a person still tests positive for hepatitis B even after 6 months, it is called a chronic infection. In Singapore, most people get the infection from mother to child transmission during pregnancy. In that situation, most infections will end up as chronic infections. Understanding the severity of your hepatitis B condition can allow you and your doctor to assess your next move.
2. Discuss treatment options
When diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, it is essential to consult a doctor who has experience treating liver disease to discuss your treatment options. Most patients with chronic infection do not need antiviral medication as they are just a carrier of the virus without any evidence of the virus causing damage to the liver. In the situation that antiviral medication is needed to treat chronic hepatitis B and help fight the virus, several antiviral medications such as entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir TDF (Viread), and tenofovir TAF (vemlidy) are commonly used. They can also reduce the risk of future liver complications. With multiple prescription combinations available, your doctor can advise you on an effective and suitable drug regimen depending on the type of infection you have, your liver function, and any other medical conditions you may have.
For certain cases, a liver transplant may be needed if a person’s liver has been severely damaged. During the liver transplant, a surgeon will remove your liver and replace it with a healthy donor liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, while a small percentage of them come from living donors.
3. Make lifestyle changes
Patients diagnosed with hepatitis B should avoid consuming alcohol and other medications that further cause damage to the liver. Discuss with your doctor about your prescribed medications, herbs, and supplements you can take. Consuming a more balanced and nutritious diet can rid the body of toxins and help cope with chronic hepatitis. Exercising regularly and getting plenty of rest can help improve the immune system, helping the body naturally remove the virus and heal the liver.
It is important to note that hepatitis B can be transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. Patients should be aware of how to protect others and avoid passing the infection to their close contacts.
It is important to educate yourself on the facts about hepatitis B. Here at gutCARE, we are here to help you through this challenging time and answer the questions you have.