Hepatitis B guide

Hepatitis B treatment

Is there a cure or treatment for hepatitis B?

Yes. Once you've been tested and diagnosed with hepatitis B, it can be treated and managed by a liver or infectious disease specialist...but it can't be cured. The hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective protection against hepatitis B infection and related health complications...health professionals generally recommend the vaccine for newborns, children who have not been vaccinated and people of any age who are at risk for hepatitis B infection.

If you have hepatitis B, we recommend that you get vaccinated for hepatitis A as a precautionary measure (there is no vaccine for hepatitis C)...pneumonia, influenza and other routine vaccines are also recommended (including diptheria and tetanus).

If I know I've been exposed to hepatitis B, what should I do?

If you know you've recently been exposed to hepatitis B, call your doctor or go to the nearest Emergency Room right away...receiving an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours of exposure may prevent your developing the disease.

Acute hepatitis B

If you have an acute (short-term) hepatitis B infection, depending on the severity of your symptoms, no treatment may be necessary. Be sure to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, eat a healthy diet, and avoid alcohol, sedatives and painkillers. You'll also need to be re-tested to confirm that the virus is inactive in your body...and you'll want to see a doctor for managing the infection and follow-up testing.

Chronic hepatitis B

If you've been diagnosed with chronic (long-term) hepatitis B infection, antiviral medications can slow the effects of liver damage...and if your liver is seriously damaged, getting a liver transplant may be an option.

Pregnancy and treatment

Hepatitis B should be closely managed before and during pregnancy to reduce the potential risks to your baby. Consult your regular doctor about the risks involved, and to identify a treatment that's best for you and your baby.

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."