Hepatitis B is a type of viral hepatitis that can manifest as an acute or chronic disease. This disease is caused by the hepatitis B virus, and it’s mainly spread through unprotected sex, which is why it’s considered to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But can this disease be cured?
Keep reading to find out whether hepatitis B is curable.
Is hepatitis B curable?
Unfortunately, there are no available treatments that can specifically target the hepatitis B virus (HBV). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who gets infected with hepatitis B will develop a chronic infection.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, 4 out of every 5 people who become infected with hepatitis B will be able to clear the virus from their bodies and fully recover from the disease.
But in some cases, the disease will progress and become chronic. Chronic hepatitis B can become a lifelong infection that can eventually lead to severe health complications, including:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
In these cases, your doctor will probably recommend certain treatments, which can be taken orally or be injected. Despite the fact that these medications can’t eliminate the virus from your system, they can help inhibit viral replication, which will prevent or slow down the progression of the disease.
People who have evidence of active liver disease and chronic hepatitis B need to be monitored closely and frequently. Your doctor could ask that you get lab tests done at regular intervals to measure your liver function and levels of liver enzymes. This can help your healthcare team assess your health situation and recommend the best course of action for you.
How is hepatitis B transmitted?
According to the CDC, there are different ways in which hepatitis B can be transmitted. Some of the ways in which hepatitis B can be transmitted include:
- Unprotected sexual contact
- Contact with contaminated body fluids
- Sharing contaminated needles
- Sharing contaminated tattooing or piercing devices
- Workplace accidents (mainly in healthcare settings)
- Being bitten by an infected person
- From mother to baby during childbirth
It’s very important to keep in mind that many people with hepatitis B can be completely asymptomatic, as confirmed by Johns Hopkins Medicine. But the fact that someone is asymptomatic doesn’t mean that the virus isn’t replicating inside their body, and that they won’t develop future health complications as a result. Even asymptomatic hepatitis B can progress to chronic disease, especially if left unmonitored and untreated.
Hepatitis B treatments
The treatment for hepatitis B will largely depend on the stage of the disease and the severity of your symptoms. According to Avert, most people with acute hepatitis B don’t require specific treatments and will recover fully within one to two months of the initial infection.
Your doctor could recommend general supportive measures during acute hepatitis B, such as rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating a healthy diet. If you have fever or pain, over-the-counter NSAIDs can be used to manage your symptoms.
Some patients with acute hepatitis B could require additional medications. This includes patients who develop a severe case of acute hepatitis B called fulminant hepatitis, or immunocompromised individuals. Children are less likely than adults to be able to clear a hepatitis B infection on their own, and newborns are especially susceptible to chronic hepatitis B.
As we mentioned above, none of these medications can clear the virus and eliminate the infection from your body. However, they can stop the virus from replicating, which can prevent future health complications with a high degree of effectiveness.
Medications for hepatitis B can act by regulating your immune system, or by directly inhibiting viral replication. Some of these medications include:
- Tenofovir disoproxil
- Tenofovir alafenamide
As long as you take your treatment and monitor the disease, you can expect to live a healthy and long life even if you have chronic hepatitis B. It’s very important not to skip your scheduled follow-up appointments to check your overall health status and make timely decisions about your care.
It’s very important to get vaccinated against hepatitis B, since this is the easiest and most effective way to prevent infection. According to the World Health Organization, the hepatitis B vaccine offers 98 to 100 percent protection against the disease. This vaccine is widely available around the world, it offers lifelong protection (as long as the vaccination schedule is followed correctly), and practically anyone can get it.
You should also get tested for STDs, including hepatitis B, once you have started your sexual life. Screening will allow you to get treatment, even if you have an asymptomatic STD, while also protecting your partner(s) from sexually transmitted infections.
STD screening has been made easier through at-home testing kits, which can be just as reliable as getting tested at your doctor’s office. You can learn more about at-home STD testing at STDWatch.com.
Hepatitis B - cdc.gov
Hepatitis B - my.clevelandclinic.org
Hepatitis B - hopkinsmedicine.org
HEPATITIS B SYMPTOMS & TREATMENT - avert.org
Hepatitis B - who.int