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.
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.
You are at increased risk for hepatitis B if you:
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:
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.
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.
If you believe you may have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, or have symptoms of hepatitis B, see your healthcare provider.
Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.
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