First, know that you are not alone! According to statistics by the Hepatitis B Foundation, approximately 292 million people are chronically infected with HBV worldwide. Second, while chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong concern, it is also a manageable condition. Although you can’t ignore your diagnosis, don’t let it overwhelm you either! Learn the basics about HBV, and then read on for advice on how to take good care of yourself and the people around you.
1. Vaccinations for your friends and family
Before we discuss all the ways for you to preserve your own health and quality of life, don’t forget about the people around you. Remember, while you may have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, they have not been. Encourage your friends and family to make sure they are vaccinated against hepatitis B. At some point during every person’s life, they may be at risk for a hepatitis B infection. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all infants and children up to age 18 years old receive the vaccination.
2. Say NO! to smoking, drugs or alcoholic drinks
Everything you put into your body – whether you eat, drink, smoke, inject, apply, or breathe it – passes through your liver. The liver processes all substances and tries to metabolize or eliminate everything that is potentially harmful to your health, such as alcohol or drugs. If there are too many of these toxic substances, your liver becomes overworked.
So if you have hepatitis B, it’s crucial that you avoid any and all actions that are toxic to your liver.
- If you are a smoker, it’s time to quit. And if anyone around you lights up, move away in order to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. People with hepatitis B are at a much higher risk for liver cancer when exposed to cigarette smoke.
- If you drink alcohol socially or unwind at the end of a long day, even just the occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer can be problematic. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can increase your risk for liver complications.
- Recreational drugs will not only raise your chances of liver problems, but they also raise the risk of spreading hepatitis B through infected syringes or straws that have tiny droplets of blood on them.
3. Exercise, but move with caution
Typically, exercise can be very beneficial for both your body and your mental health. However, the symptoms of hepatitis vary widely from person to person, and you should discuss your personalized exercise program with your doctor before starting. If fatigue gets in the way of your exercise routine, even a short stroll to stretch your muscles and breathe fresh air can help to counter your hepatitis symptoms.
4. Pay attention to your emotions
Living with hepatitis can be depressing, and it’s common for people with HBV to feel worried or anxious. However, you can prevent your emotions from spiraling downwards by connecting with others who understand. Studies have shown that the right support can have a tremendous positive impact on the patient’s ability to cope. Hepatitis support groups are widely available; search for one online or ask your doctor about any local groups.
5. Practice safe sex
Hepatitis B is a communicable disease that can be spread through exposure to bodily fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluids, and blood. That’s why it is imperative to practice safe sex. You should tell your sexual partners to get tested for HBV and make sure that all of your partners are vaccinated. Using condoms is also an effective way to keep HBV from spreading.
6. Cover any open cuts
As we’ve stated, hepatitis B is spread through body fluids, such as blood. Therefore, you need to cover open cuts with a bandage, and don’t share toothbrushes, razors, or any personal hygiene or medical supplies that could have some of your blood on them, even if it’s only a tiny amount.
7. Ask about antiviral therapy
Antiviral therapy may be an option for some people with HBV. Although it is not a cure, antiviral treatment can help reduce your risk of liver disease and other complications, as well as decrease the chances of spreading your infection to others. Several oral antiviral medications are available, all of which fight the virus and weaken its effects on your liver. Consult with your doctor about these drugs and whether they are right for you.
By educating yourself about hepatitis B and plugging into a strong social and medical network, you can live well with this chronic condition.