Managing your Hepatitis B

Join the hepatitis B programme

Hepatitis B requires long-term follow-up. Having six-monthly blood tests is very important. To help you look after yourself you can enrol onto the National Hepatitis B Follow-up Programme. This programme provides information and support for people with chronic hepatitis B. You will be given regular blood tests as needed, education, advice, up-to-date information, contact with a community hepatitis nurse and access to secondary care if needed.

Important: While the Foundation no longer operates a Hepatitis C Follow-up Programme, we still operate a Hepatitis B Follow-up Programme.

Look after your liver – Maintain a healthy lifestyle

You can keep healthy by:

  • Staying within a healthy weight range
  • Avoiding food and beverages containing a lot of fat or sugar
  • Exercising daily
  • Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Getting checked for diabetes and if you have it follow your doctor’s advice.

For more detail please read our information sheet about hepatitis and lifestyle.

f49296ee48900a1e8cd0bd70fdd73298_f900Drinking less alcohol is the most important lifestyle change you can make. Anyone with hepatitis B is recommended to keep alcohol intake to a minimum to reduce the risk of developing hepatitis-related complications. Regular and heavy alcohol intake will increase liver damage and increase your risk of cirrhosis

Cannabis use should also be reduced as heavy cannabis use can scar your liver.

Also avoid eating fatty foods as they clog your liver and stop it working.

People with hepatitis also need to mindful about taking pain relief medication. Please read the article ‘Pain relief and your liver‘ from issue 12 of Talking Hep C.

This will help you cope better with hepatitis B and will also help avoid other liver problems such as fatty liver disease. Fatty liver is a condition where excess fat builds up inside the cells within the liver. Fatty liver may speed up the progression of scarring in people with chronic hepatitis B.

 

Managing your symptoms

If you experience symptoms such as no energy, low concentration or not wanting to exercise or eat, you can do simple things to help such as:

60e45f41d01430b8eceb45b2bdb87f8d_f934•Doing some gentle exercises every day
•Planning ahead and doing more when you have more energy
•Eating smaller meals
•Resting when you feel tired instead of trying to sleep
•Having a pre-sleep routine
•Not exercising or drinking coffee or tea before bed
•Not napping during the day.

Common blood tests for ongoing management

Blood tests can detect liver disease and should be done six-monthly. These tests include:

  • HBsAg- Hepatitis B surface antigen
  • HBeAg- Hepatitis B envelope antigen
  • ALT- screen for active liver inflammation (and need for antiviral therapy)
  • AFP- screen for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Please note that this will also be elevated during pregnancy.

Please read our information sheet for more detail about liver function tests.

Testing of family members and contacts

A free vaccination is available to anyone under 18 years of age, and to household contacts or sexual partners of people with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B testing and a free vaccination should be offered to household contacts and sexual partners of people with hepatitis B. Since 1987, all babies born in New Zealand have been protected against the hepatitis B virus infection through vaccination. Hepatitis B is very rare in New Zealanders younger than 25 years.

FibroScan

a560ebfae5ced65fd71d4acb9b17d5ca_f817Having a FibroScan is one of the most important things you can do to assess the health of your liver.

A FibroScan is a simple, painless tool that determines if liver damage (fibrosis or cirrhosis) is present by measuring the degree of stiffness in the liver. The FibroScan assessment usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes and the results of the scan can be given immediately after.

You can have a FibroScan if:

  • You have hepatitis B or C,
  • You are enrolled with The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand,
  • A FibroScan clinic is available in your area.Please call 0800 33 20 10 for information about where these clinics are held.

If you require a FibroScan for immigration purposes click here. 

Read the article ‘An in-depth look at the FibroScan‘ from issue 11 of Talking Hep C for more information.

Telling others

While you do not have to tell anyone about your diagnosis, reasonable precautions must be taken to avoid passing it on to others (see above for ‘preventing the spread’). It is often best to tell people you trust or people directly affected, such as household members or sexual partners.

People living with hepatitis B do not have to tell employers, unless you work in an environment that may put others at risk, such as healthcare. Discrimination against people with hepatitis in the workplace is illegal.

Telling healthcare workers such as a doctor or nurse may be beneficial for good health care (e.g. prescribing the most appropriate medications). Health care workers, including dentists, are required to use standard infection control precautions for all situations and procedures that may involve exposure to blood or other bodily fluids, regardless of whether you have hepatitis B or not.

Preventing the spread

9d9c90776f3dbd68b1e8d59b963bfeaf_f905Hepatitis B is spread by transfer of infected blood and other bodily fluids from one person to another. To avoid infecting others you should take the following steps:

  • Cover any open cuts or sores
  • Clean any blood spillage with household bleach (do not put bleach on your skin)
  • Do not donate blood
  • Practice safe sex- use condoms until your partner has evidence of protective immunity
  • Vaccination for sexual contacts and household members (free vaccine is available)
  • Do not share razors, towels, toothbrushes, or any object that may come into contact with blood or body fluid.

Hepatitis B is not spread through everyday contact, e.g. touching, sneezing, coughing, or using the same toilet.

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© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016