The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has outlined new guidance for healthcare professionals on the treatment and management of patients with chronic hepatitis B.
By implementing these proposals it is hoped that the increasing number of people in the UK suffering from the disease receive effective specialist treatment when needed.
In its guide NICE discusses how people of all ages should be assessed and outlines when antiviral treatment is needed.
It examines the safety, efficiency and cost of existing treatment options and advises on initial therapy types and difficult cases where the body resists drugs, or treatments being used fail to work as planned.
The guide provides information on checking responses to the different treatments out there and informs the reader about fibrosis severity and the onset of primary liver cancer, both conditions which can be associated with chronic hepatitis B.
This new set of NICE guidelines has been written to further develop patient-centred and consistent methods of care across the country, which should help to improve diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with this condition.
Statistics show that as many as 180,000 people in the UK suffer from chronic hepatitis B and if the virus is not dealt with adequately any acute infections can become chronic. This can make patients more susceptible to fibrosis or cirrhosis of the liver through scarring, liver failure or liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is usually transferred in infected blood through the skin or through infected needles.
Should the virus stay for six months or longer the condition becomes known as chronic hepatitis B. This is particularly common in babies and young people and may not cause any noticeable symptoms, according to the NHS.
Around one in five people with chronic hepatitis B can go onto develop cirrhosis of the liver, which could take around 20 years to develop and among these people with cirrhosis, ten per cent will develop liver cancer in later life.
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