Hepatitis B - Office Visit

This is an office visit to evaluate and treat a serious viral infection of the liver, which can lead to liver disease that gets worse over time.

This is an office visit to evaluate and treat a serious viral infection of the liver, which can lead to liver disease that gets worse over time.

Hepatitis is the medical term for inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is a preventable viral infection of the liver, which can lead to liver disease that gets worse over time. In some people who develop hepatitis B, their immune system is able to eliminate the virus and cure the disease. In others, their immune system is not able to eliminate the virus (becomes chronic). This can lead to serious long-term complications, such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. Hepatitis B is more likely to become a chronic condition if you are infected at an early age.

  • Hepatitis B is caused by a virus (HBV) that infects the liver cell. The HBV is found in the blood and other body fluids of infected people.
  • Thanks to immunization programs, hepatitis B infection can be prevented; the overall incidence of the infection has dropped.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and complete the vaccine series by 18 months of age. Children and adolescents through 18 years of age who have not received the vaccine, as well as adults with risks factors for contracting the virus, should also be vaccinated.

The liver, a football sized organ on the upper right side of your abdomen, is essential for life. It has many important functions that include storing nutrients, removing harmful substances from the blood, and producing important substances that enable the blood to clot and help with digestion. The hepatitis B virus infects cells of the liver, which can lead to inflammation and a decrease in the liver's ability to function properly. Hepatitis B is spread through sexual, household, or occupational exposure to infected blood or body fluids (such as semen or vaginal fluid). It can also spread through injection drug use or from an infected mother to her baby.

  • An infected person's blood, either fresh or dried, is highly contagious during the one to two months before and after symptoms appear. The average incubation period is 90 days.
  • People who develop antibodies and recover completely are not contagious. However, those who develop chronic hepatitis B (infection lasts longer than six months) have the potential to spread the virus indefinitely.
  • Testing donated blood has greatly reduced the spread of hepatitis B through blood transfusions.

You are at increased risk for hepatitis B if you:

  • are a man who has sex with men or
  • have had more than one sexual partner in the last six months
  • have recently been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease or have HIV
  • inject illegal drugs
  • are a long-term male prison inmate
  • are routinely exposed to human blood, blood products, or human bites
  • live or work in an institution for the developmentally disabled or provide care in other settings for people who have developmental disabilities
  • work in a facility that provides care to people at high risk for hepatitis B
  • live in, travel to, or emigrated from an area where hepatitis B is prevalent
  • are an unvaccinated adolescent
  • are a household member or a sexual contact of someone who's infected with hepatitis B
  • have diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, or receive kidney dialysis
  • are the newborn of a mother who is infected with hepatitis B.

All pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B. For people at increased risk, the recommendations of the CDC and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) differ slightly. UnitedHealthcare follows the guidance of the USPSTF.

Hepatitis B can be acute (infection lasts less than sixty days) or chronic (infection lasts longer than sixty days). Most children and about half of all adults who have acute hepatitis B have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they usually develop slowly and may include:

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • fatigue and weakness
  • loss of appetite with nausea and vomiting
  • low-grade fever
  • dark-colored urine and light-colored stools
  • abdominal discomfort or pain
  • joint pain
  • rash
  • kidney problems

People who develop chronic hepatitis B are known as carriers. They often have no symptoms, but may have ongoing symptoms or periods when their symptoms suddenly worsen temporarily. In some cases, the symptoms are actually due to complications of hepatitis B, such as liver cancer or cirrhosis (a chronic liver disease that may result in liver failure). If you have symptoms of hepatitis B, your healthcare provider will do a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. He or she will ask about potential exposure to hepatitis, blood transfusions, and sexual practices.

  • You may need several different blood tests to see if you have been infected with hepatitis B, how far the condition has progressed, and if you are a carrier. The blood tests can also help your healthcare provider determine the best course of treatment for your condition.
  • Liver function laboratory blood tests may also be ordered to assess how well your liver is working.

There is no specific treatment or cure for acute hepatitis B, but most adults recover completely within six months. Some general treatment measures include getting plenty of rest, eating well, and taking only medications recommended by your healthcare provider (including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications). Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication if you have severe nausea and vomiting, an antiviral medication, or one of several medications to help boost your immune system. In severe cases, hospitalization may be needed. A liver transplant may be recommended if you develop liver failure.

  • There are treatment options for people with chronic hepatitis B. The disease and treatment require office visits to monitor the disease and the effects of treatment.

If you believe you may have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, or have symptoms of hepatitis B, see your healthcare provider.

  • Before your appointment, make a list of your medical history, including past illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations; your medications (including over-the-counter); and any questions or concerns you want to discuss.
  • During your appointment, ask about your overall health, what symptoms you might have, when you may start to see improvement; what the follow-up plans are, if any; and what symptoms you should report before your next appointment.
  • After your appointment, you should know your diagnosis, what tests you might need, the reason for those tests, and if the test results will change your treatment plan. You should also understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives, and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).
  • Depending upon the results of your medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests, your health care professional may refer you to a physician who specializes in the treatment of hepatitis B.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • Should my partner be tested?
  • What precautions can I take if I'm planning to get pregnant?
  • What hygiene precautions should I take to prevent exposure to others?
  • If I've been exposed to hepatitis B, should I receive immune globulin?
  • If I have hepatitis B, should I be vaccinated for hepatitis A?
  • If I've never had hepatitis B, should I receive the hepatitis B vaccine? How will it protect me?
  • Is there a specific time period during which I should not have sex? Should I limit my activity?
  • Will I need follow-up blood tests after I feel better?
  • Do I need an evaluation by a physician who specializes in the treatment of hepatitis B? If so, what is the reason for that consultation?

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

Viral Infection
Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis Virus
Hepatitis B - Office Visit
Hep B

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