Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver. The hepatitis A, B and C viruses are primarily responsible for the illness. Hepatitis A virus infection is usually caused by consuming water contaminated with hepatitis A virus. In some cases, sex with an infected person can cause this infection.
Hepatitis B and C viruses are spread through sex with an infected person, transfusion of infected blood and unsafe medical practices.Hepatitis A heals naturally. It does not cause permanent damage to the liver. In most cases, the patient recovers completely within a month or two.
Hepatitis B and C, on the other hand, can be life threatening. They gradually damage the liver, leading to liver cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Medications help in preventing replication of the hepatitis B and C viruses and arresting progression of liver damage.
Best Medications To Treat Hepatitis
Interferon is an antiviral agent used for treating chronic hepatitis B and C. It resembles a protein that is produced by the immune system to fight infections. By strengthening the immune system, interferon helps to stop replication of the hepatitis B and C viruses. Interferons currently used for treating hepatitis include interferon alfa-2b and pegylated interferon alfa-2a.
Weekly pegylated interferon alfa-2 injections are administered to treat the liver infection. Interferon alfa-2b is currently used as a second line drug for treating chronic hepatitis. Treatment with interferon usually lasts for four to twelve months. It is usually effective in people who have been suffering from hepatitis for a short time.
Hepatitis patients with high levels of liver enzymes and strong immune system are the best candidates for treatment with interferon. Depression, fatigue, headache, hair loss, reduction in white blood cells and platelet counts are possible side effects of interferon.
Antiviral drugs called nucleoside analog and nucleotide analog are used for treating chronic hepatitis B. They work by suppressing replication of the hepatitis B virus.
While nucleoside analog antivirals such as lamivudine, entecavir, telbivudine and ribavirin are primarily used for treating chronic hepatitis B, nucleotide analog antivirals such as adefovir and tenofovir are used only when the hepatitis virus strain does not respond to the conventional nucleoside analog drugs. These drugs are usually combined with interferon in hepatitis B treatment.
Lamivudine is one of the earliest and effective antiviral drugs for treating hepatitis. Adults diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B are usually recommended 100 mg of lamivudine each day.
Lamivudine and interferon alfa-2b are currently the only drugs used in combination therapy for treating hepatitis B in children. Headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, lactic acidosis and sudden worsening of symptoms of hepatitis are possible side effects of this drug.
Entecavir is one of the new antiviral drugs used for preventing spread of the hepatitis B virus. It is considered more effective than lamivudine. However, it may not prevent liver cancer or cirrhosis of liver caused by chronic hepatitis B. It is usually taken once a day on empty stomach. Entecavir may cause headache.
Telbivudine is used for treating chronic hepatitis B when symptoms of liver damage appear.
One telbivudine tablet can be taken daily with or without food. Headache, joint pain, back pain, rash, diarrhea and sleeping problems are possible side effects of the drug.
The nucleoside analog drug ribavirin combined with pegylated interferon is recommended for treating hepatitis C infections in adults and children. It is usually taken twice a day with food. Treatment with ribavirin and interferon usually lasts for 24 to 48 weeks.
In some cases, doctors recommend longer treatment with these drugs. Stomach upset, cough, appetite loss, dry mouth, heartburn, memory problems, rash, excess sweating and sleeping difficulties are possible adverse effects of this drug.
Adefovir works by suppressing activities of an enzyme that support multiplication of the hepatitis B viruses.
This nucleotide analog drug is usually taken once daily with or without food. Diarrhea, gas, weakness, headache, indigestion, runny nose, sore throat and cough are possible side effects of the drug.
Tenofovir is occasionally used for treating chronic hepatitis B. It is usually taken once daily with food. Diarrhea, gas, vomiting and appetite loss are common side effects of the drug.