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Overview of Hepatitis Treatments

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Updated June 29, 2009

With hepatitis, there is no single medicine. Treatment is specific to its cause, which means that your physician will choose the best therapy for you based on your diagnosis. In the case of viral hepatitis, some viruses do respond to antiviral treatment. In certain acute cases, no drug is needed. Getting the proper treatment is important because the faster your hepatitis is under control, the better your liver will be. Let's look at some of the most common forms of treatment for hepatitis.

Rest, Rest and More Rest

Some types of hepatitis, such as acute viral forms like hepatitis A and sometimes hepatitis B are self-limited diseases which means that your body's immune system will eventually be able to destroy the viruses that caused the disease. Medicine is rarely necessary to treat self-limited types of hepatitis, except for supportive therapies like controlling nausea or aches and pains. However, many people rest and give their bodies the necessary time to fight the illness. Self-limited diseases usually will not progress to chronic problems, so after a few weeks, you will feel better and be able to go back to normal activities.

Interferon

Interferon is a protein made by the body's immune system that combats viruses. Its anti-viral properties make it a powerful weapon against viral hepatitis B and C. Drug scientists have studied this protein and developed a synthetic form that is also called interferon, but is sold under different names like Intron, Roferon and Infergen. Synthetic interferon works similar to the natural proteins and doctors use this powerful therapy to help control the levels of hepatitis virus in the body. Unfortunately, this treatment is expensive and has significant side effects.

Other Antiviral Drugs

Doctors often combine different antiviral drugs to better combat the virus. For example, interferon treatment may often be combined with other antiviral drugs like Lamivudine in the case of hepatitis B infection or Ribavirin for people with hepatitis C infection. The drug combinations have a stronger therapeutic effect than a singular drug on its own. Similar to interferon, the side effects can be severe. However, the costs of this combination therapy are relatively reasonable.

Liver Transplantation

Sometimes hepatitis has developed into such a serious disease that a liver transplant is the only treatment left. This is a complex surgical procedure that involves replacing a failing liver with a donor liver. Thousands of these operations are done every year but because there are many risks involved, it is a treatment of last resort.

New Treatments

The future is bright for some types of hepatitis because scientists are working to improve existing treatments and develop new ones like antiviral drugs that more efficiently prevent viral replication in liver cells. In addition, new therapies are taking advantage of the explosion of knowledge in genetic engineering. Treatments using this technology could revolutionize hepatitis therapy.
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