Hepatitis B virus Treatment
Around the world, Hepatitis B is estimated to infect over 250 million persons. Unlike other viruses that infect and affect the liver, Hepatitis B’s natural history and cycle of immune mediated responses are highly complicated. Many doctors who are not liver Specialists find it difficult to understand the phases of Hepatitis B infection (phases 1, 2, 3 and 4) and this article is not intended to explain this.
The rate of infection are highest in Africa and Asia, although if you have a family member who has the disease, the good news is there are very safe and highly effective medications to treat the virus, preventing long term complications. Since the availability of the two very potent antiviral drugs (Entecavir an Tenofovir), the risks of long term complications including severe scarring (cirrhosis) as well as primary liver cancers (hepatocellular carcinomas) can be prevented. Another medication called a Pegylated interferon monotherapy is also available in Australia and has been used extensively for eligible patients. The choice between Pegylated Interferon versus antiviral tablets is complex and it is highly recommended that you have a thorough discussion with you treating Gastroenterologist. Ask about the side effect profiles of each of the medications, the expected length of therapy and whether one can expect to stop the medication once it has been started.
Ask your Gastroenterologist if your level of alcohol consumption should be considered a risk factor, and if you need to have regular routine screening for hepatocellular carcinomas. Some patients will need regular gastroscopies to detect and treat engorged veins in the stomach and the oesophagus (called varices). Remember to bring along all your usual medications, which may interfere with Hepatitis B therapies as well as some medications can cause liver toxicities.
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