Hepatitis B may cause cirrhosis from ongoing liver inflammation, which can lead to scar tissue forming on your liver over time.

Hepatitis B is a liver infection that occurs from the hepatitis B virus (HBV), a highly contagious virus that’s transmissible through contact with blood or other body fluids.

When you contract HBV, your immune system may not fully clear the virus, leading to a persistent infection. Chronic HBV infection can lead to ongoing liver inflammation, which, over time, can cause liver damage and scarring. This is known as cirrhosis.

When HBV infects your liver, it sets off an immune response involving cells called CD8+ T cells and natural killer cells. These cells attack your liver cells with the HBV infection, causing inflammation. If this inflammation lasts a long time, it can harm your liver.

Your liver makes new cells to repair the damage. However, this repair process can lead to scar tissue forming, called fibrogenesis. As your liver keeps trying to repair itself, scar tissue can build up and cause cirrhosis.

HBV can also directly damage your liver and contribute to fibrosis. It can become part of your liver cells’ DNA, leading to ongoing viral replication and inflammation. The interplay between HBV, your immune system, and the virus’ ability to stick around in your liver is critical in developing cirrhosis.

Taking care of your liver if you have hepatitis B involves several key steps:

  • Regular monitoring: It’s important to have regular checkups with your healthcare team to monitor your liver’s health, including liver function tests and viral load measurements.
  • Medications: Healthcare professionals may prescribe antiviral medications to help reduce the amount of hepatitis B virus in your body, slow down liver damage, and lower the risk of complications.
  • Balanced diet: According to studies in a 2012 research review, malnutrition affects 50–90% of people with cirrhosis due to increased nutrient needs, reduced food intake, absorption issues, and metabolic changes. Be sure to consume enough calories and meet your protein needs.
    • Consider adding plant-based and dairy proteins for their high content of branched-chain amino acids, which are beneficial for muscle synthesis and overall health.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption can worsen liver damage and increase the risk of complications such as liver failure, liver cancer, and life threatening bleeding in the digestive tract.
  • Limit or avoid potentially harmful medications: Certain medications, such as opioids or proton pump inhibitors, can harm your liver, so it’s important to avoid them or use them with caution.

Many insurances typically cover treatment for hepatitis B-related cirrhosis, including Medicare, as experts consider it a medically necessary condition requiring treatment. The specific coverage details may vary, depending on your individual insurance plan.

You need an identifying code called an “ICD-10 code” to look up information on your coverage and copays. ICD-10 codes that show hepatitis B-related cirrhosis include:

  • B18.1: Chronic viral hepatitis B with hepatic coma
  • B18.2: Chronic viral hepatitis B without mention of hepatic coma
  • K74.6: Unspecified cirrhosis of your liver
  • K74.69: Other cirrhosis of your liver

Hepatitis B, especially with cirrhosis, can affect life expectancy, particularly in advanced liver disease cases.

A 2022 study in southern China showed that the participants with hepatitis B virus-related acute-on-chronic liver failure and cirrhosis had a 5-year survival rate of 27.6%, compared with 62% for those without cirrhosis.

These findings show the significant effect of cirrhosis on the outlook and life expectancy of people with hepatitis B-related liver issues.

Support groups like the Hepatitis B Foundation and the American Liver Foundation can provide valuable information, resources, and community for those affected.

Additionally, mental health support through organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness can help people cope with the emotional aspects of living with these conditions.

Hepatitis B-related cirrhosis is serious, but advancements in medical care have greatly improved outcomes for people with the condition.

If you have hepatitis B and cirrhosis, it’s crucial to follow your primary healthcare professional’s advice and take steps to protect your liver, such as limiting or avoiding alcohol and certain medications. Support groups and resources can assist you in managing your condition and enhancing your quality of life.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and ways to live well with hepatitis B-related cirrhosis exist.