Hepatitis

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis at its most basic definition is an inflammation of the liver.  Most commonly heard of, are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. These three types of hepatitis are labeled based on the type of virus that causes the inflammation of the liver. Each type of hepatitis can almost be considered a unique disease because each responds to different treatments.

Hepatitis A (HAV)

Hepatitis A is very contagious and is typically infects people that eat or drink something that has been exposed to fecal matter or another person that has the virus.

Although highly contagious, it is not very dangerous compared to its counterparts. Hepatitis A is preventable by vaccine, and treatable by a medical professional.

Symptoms

If you have hepatitis A you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Yellow eyes, yellow skin, or dark urine (Jaundice)
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue

Treatments

The most common treatment for hepatitis A is to rest, drink fluids, and avoid alcohol. Most cases of hepatitis A will resolve themselves on their own. To prevent hepatitis A, you can receive a hepatitis A vaccine.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis B is a more serious type of hepatitis. If the virus is not treated it can potentially lead to liver failure and even liver cancer.

If you are an adult and get hepatitis B your body should be able to fight it off within a few months.

After the virus has subsided you become immune. If you contract hepatitis B at birth, however, it is unlikely to go away. Hepatitis B is most commonly passed through blood, saliva, sexual fluids, using a needle after someone with the virus, or if your mother had hepatitis B while pregnant with you.

Symptoms

The common symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Light colored stool
  • Aching joints

Treatments

If you feel that you have been infected by the hepatitis B virus it is important to see a physician as soon as possible; the earlier you receive treatment, the better. Your physician will most likely administer a hepatitis B vaccine and other antiviral medication.

Hepatitis C (HCV)

Hepatitis C is another virus that can damage your liver. It is typically spread through blood and other bodily fluids. Hepatitis C can manifest itself in two different forms, acute hepatitis C or chronic hepatitis C.

  • Acute hepatitis C is the less serious form of hepatitis and typically lasts for 6 months. After 6 months the most people’s immune systems will defeat the virus.
  • Chronic hepatitis C happens when your body cannot fight off the virus in the first 6 months and the virus infects the body for a longer period of time. This, unfortunately, can lead to more long term health issues like liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Hepatitis C include:

  • Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin, dark urine)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Severe fatigue
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleed easily
  • Bruise easily
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion

Treatments

Hepatitis C has a cure rate of over 90%.

The most common treatments for hepatitis C include:

  • Antiviral medications
  • Liver transplant (Chronic hepatitis C)
  • Hepatitis C vaccination

How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis?

The best way to prevent contracting Hepatitis A or B is to get vaccinated for the diseases. It is recommended to have children vaccinated for Hepatitis A between the ages of 12 months to 23 months, and you can receive the vaccine at any age after that. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually administered to newborns, but you can get the vaccine at any time in life. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

Other healthy habits to prevent contracting Hepatitis include:

  • Always wash your hands after using the restroom, or come into contact with any bodily fluids
  • Avoid unclean food and water – uncooked meat, not buying food from street vendors
  • If traveling, check if the place you are going has high levels of hepatitis infection
  • When having sex, use protection
  • Don’t share personal hygiene products- toothbrush, razor, etc.
  • Ensure any needles you use are sterilized- getting tattoos or piercings, if injecting illicit drugs