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What is hepatitis?

Worldwide, 290 million people are living unaware that they have viral 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 type responds to different treatments. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with, or suspects, a form of hepatitis contact GI Alliance to locate a gastroenterologist near you as soon as possible.

Hepatitis A (HAV)

Hepatitis A is very contagious and 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.

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

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

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.

The common symptoms of hepatitis B include:

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

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 C and typically lasts for six months. After six months, most people’s immune systems will defeat the virus.
  • Chronic hepatitis C happens when your body cannot fight off the virus in the first six 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.

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

Hepatitis C has a cure rate of over 90%. The most common treatments for hepatitis C include:

  • Antiviral medications
  • Liver transplant (chronic hepatitis C)
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How can I prevent myself from getting hepatitis?

The best prevention against contracting hepatitis A or B is to get vaccinated for the disease. 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 contraction of hepatitis include:

  • Always wash your hands after using the restroom, or come into contact with any bodily fluids
  • Avoid unclean food and water, eating uncooked meat, and 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
  • Do not share personal hygiene products, such as toothbrushes, razors, etc.
  • Ensure any needles you use are sterilized, such as when getting tattoos or piercings or if injecting illicit drugs

Treatment for patients with hepatitis

While hepatitis can cause serious problems, including liver failure and liver cancer, it is treatable with help from your gastroenterologist. If you are experiencing any troubling gastrointestinal symptoms like any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your local GI Alliance. GI Alliance is the nation's leading physician-led network of gastroenterologists, and we aim to provide safe, patient-centric care. To learn more about the treatments available for all forms of hepatitis, visit your local GI Alliance and talk to our friendly support staff.

I have been a patient of Dr Johnson for over 20 years. I have lot of respect for his patience for customer care.

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The staff and Dr Karthik Garapati are wonderful and professional.

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Dr Jennifer Dorfmeister is a wonderful, caring, and professional physician. She takes the time with you and looks out for your health. She explains procedures and provides information. I highly recommend Dr Jennifer Dorfmeister for anyone looking for a qualified and friendly physician in the area.

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I met with Dr. Gambla for a consultation appointment. Dr Gambla was very friendly from the beginning to end. He explained everything in detail. I was nervous going into the appointment, by the time I left I very assured about my upcoming procedure. Nice office. I would recommend Dr. Gambla to my friends in family in a heart beat.

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Dr. Hymel is very caring and patient. He listens to your concerns and doesn't rush you. I highly recommend Dr. Hymel!!

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