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Hepatitis B treatment

Hepatitis B is an infection that affects your liver

Syringe and vial
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

Hepatitis B is uncommon in the UK but widespread in some parts of the world including Africa, Asia, the Middle East and parts of South America and Eastern Europe. Hepatitis B infection can be acute (lasting less than six months) or chronic (lasting more than six months).

Acute hepatitis B often clears up on its own, but chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong condition that can lead to serious complications and even death. Babies and children are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B.

This page explains what hepatitis B is, what are the causes and symptoms of hepatitis B and what treatments are available.

Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private hepatitis B treatment with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids. It may be spread through:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sexual intercourse
  • Having a blood transfusion in a country that doesn’t screen for hepatitis B (all blood for transfusion is screened in the UK)
  • Sharing needles, toothbrushes, or razors
  • Having a piercing, tattoo or dental procedure using unsterilised equipment
  • Injury from a contaminated needle
  • Contact with an open wound
  • From mother to baby during pregnancy or birth

Hepatitis B can live outside the body for at least seven days which means you can become infected from contaminated items like medical instruments, needles, razors, or toothbrushes that haven't been properly sterilised during this time.

Many people have mild or no symptoms in the early stages of hepatitis B infection and may recover from the virus without ever knowing that they had it.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever (a temperature above 38°C)
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Patches of itchy, raised, red skin (hives)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Clay-coloured stools (poo)
  • Swelling of the abdomen, arms, or legs

The best way to prevent hepatitis B infection is to have the hepatitis B vaccine.

In the UK, babies are vaccinated against hepatitis B as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine, a vaccine that protects against six serious childhood illnesses.

Adults are normally only given the hepatitis B vaccine if they are at high risk of getting hepatitis B. You may be at high risk if you:

  • Have liver disease or kidney disease
  • Have HIV
  • Are travelling to a high-risk country 
  • Work in an environment where you may be exposed to hepatitis B like a hospital or prison

You can reduce your risk of getting hepatitis B by avoiding exposure to the virus through bodily fluids. This includes:

  • Using condoms or dental dams during vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Avoiding sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, and needles

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant gastroenterologist or hepatologist, a doctor specialising in conditions affecting the digestive system or liver.

Your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, general health, and medical history. They may ask you some questions about your family background, lifestyle, or travel history to determine your risk of getting hepatitis B. They will perform a physical examination.

Hepatitis B is diagnosed with a blood test. This test also tells your consultant:

  • If you have acute or chronic hepatitis B
  • If you have developed immunity to the virus
  • If you have had hepatitis B in the past
  • If your liver function is affected

If your consultant suspects that your liver has been affected, they may order further tests to check the health of your liver such as an MRI, or CT scan. In some cases, they may take some cells from your liver to examine them under a microscope (liver biopsy).

Why is this first consultation so important?

At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it's where your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, perform a physical examination, order any necessary tests, provide a diagnosis, and discuss possible treatments.

Your first consultation is also where we get to know you, discuss your expectations for treatment and encourage you to ask any questions you may have. It is important to us that you are as well-informed and comfortable as possible before, during, and after your treatment, so please ask your consultant any questions and discuss any concerns during your appointment.

After making a diagnosis, your consultant will discuss possible treatment options with you and decide on the best option based on your symptoms and diagnosis.

Acute hepatitis B normally clears up without treatment. You may be prescribed medication such as painkillers or medicine to stop you from feeling sick as you recover.

Getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids are also important to help your body fight the infection.

Your consultant will check your liver to make sure it is working properly.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B is most effective during the active stage of the disease. Medications work by boosting your immune system and slowing down the reproduction of the virus in the body.


Medications for hepatitis B include:

  • Immune modulator drugs (interferons) - are synthetic versions of the antibodies our bodies produce to fight infection. They are given as a first-line treatment for six to twelve months
  • Antivirals - help suppress the virus by reducing its growth in the body and reducing the risk of complications. You will normally take this medication for life
  • Other medications - your consultant may prescribe medications to help with symptoms like pain, nausea and itching

You will need to have regular check-ups to see how your liver is functioning and detect any problems as early as possible. This is normally done every six months.

Lifestyle changes

If you are diagnosed with hepatitis B it's important to follow a healthy lifestyle to minimise strain on your liver.

This includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet low in sugar and fat
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Keeping your weight within healthy limits

Liver transplant

If chronic hepatitis B leads to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer, you may need surgery to remove all or part of your liver.

If enough healthy tissue remains, your liver can regenerate itself. If too much tissue is diseased and needs to be removed, you'll need a liver transplant to replace it.

Untreated hepatitis B can lead to liver cirrhosis and increase your risk of developing liver cancer.

You can reduce the risk of complications by taking your prescribed medication and attending regular check-ups with your liver specialist.

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about hepatitis B.

How long can you live with hepatitis B without treatment?

Chronic hepatitis B is a hepatitis B infection that lasts longer than six months. Untreated chronic hepatitis B can increase your risk of diseases like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer which can be fatal. This risk increases the longer you have untreated hepatitis B.

Medications for hepatitis B and regular check-ups with a liver specialist reduce the risk of complications and early death. If treated, most people with chronic hepatitis B live normal lives.

Is hepatitis B contagious after treatment?

Acute hepatitis B is a hepatitis infection that lasts less than six months and clears up without treatment. If you have recovered from acute hepatitis B you are immune, meaning you cannot get hepatitis B again or pass the virus to other people.

Chronic hepatitis B lasts longer than six months and is treated with lifelong medication. With chronic hepatitis B, the virus remains in your body and can be passed to other people whether or not you are undergoing treatment.

How effective is hepatitis B treatment?

Though there is no cure for chronic hepatitis B, medication can help slow the progression of the virus and reduce the risk of complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer. Treatment is most effective in the active stage of the infection and the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it is likely to be.

Is hepatitis B serious?

Acute hepatitis B normally has mild to no symptoms and clears up without treatment within a few months.

Chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong disease that can be managed with medication and regular check-ups. Most people with chronic hepatitis B live normal lives, however untreated hepatitis B can lead to serious complications like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Can hepatitis B be cured?

There is currently no cure for hepatitis B. Acute hepatitis B clears up within a few months without treatment. Chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong disease that can be managed with medication but cannot be cured.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about hepatitis B treatment, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in March 2023. Next review due March 2026.

  1. Hepatitis B, NHS
  2. Hepatitis B,  World Health Organisation
  3. Hepatitis B, NHS Inform
  4. Hepatitis B treatment, John Hopkins

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