Hepatitis


The liver performs many essential functions, and when it becomes inflamed due to hepatitis, there is cause for concern. There are many types of viral hepatitis, including A, B and C.


Causes

Hepatitis can be caused by:

  • Immune cells in the body attacking the liver and causing autoimmune hepatitis
  • Infections from viruses (such as hepatitis A, B, or C), bacteria, or parasites
  • Liver damage from alcohol, poisonous mushrooms, or other poisons.
  • Medications, such as an overdose of acetaminophen

Risk Factors

The following people are at a higher risk for hepatitis:

  • Health care workers who are exposed to infected blood
  • People who share needles
  • People who abuse drugs or alcohol

Symptoms

Hepatitis liver, sick liver

  • Abdominal pain or distention
  • Dark urine or pale/clay-colored stools
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, low-grade fever, nausea/vomiting
  • General itching
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)
  • Appetite or weight loss

Diagnostic Tests

A physical examination may show:

  • Enlarged and tender liver
  • Fluid in the abdomen (ascites) that can become infected
  • Yellowing of the skin

Your doctor may order laboratory tests to diagnose and monitor the hepatitis, including:

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Autoimmune blood markers
  • Hepatitis virus serologies
  • Liver function tests
  • Liver biopsy to check for liver damage
  • Paracentesis if fluid is in your abdomen

Treatment

Your doctor will discuss possible treatments with you, depending on the cause of your liver disease. A high-calorie diet may be recommended to combat weight loss.

Common Types of Hepatitis

There are 5 main types of hepatitis: A. B, C, D, and E. The most common types are hepatitis A, B, and C. 

What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is highly contagious and spreads through contaminated water or food, or direct contact with an infected person. Hepatitis A can be prevented through vaccinations. 

What is Hepatitis B?
Also a serious liver infection, this form of hepatitis results from the hepatitis B virus. It is most often spread by exposure to the body fluids of an infected person, and can be easily prevented by a vaccine.

What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver and causes inflammation. Spread by contact with contaminated blood, this type of hepatitis may occur when people share needles or get tattoos with unsterile equipment. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a condition that involves the inflammation of the liver. Because the liver is needed to process nutrients, filter the blood, and fight off infections, its proper function is vital. Inflammation has a negative impact on overall health, and while it is most often caused by a virus, other lifestyle choices may factor in – like heavy alcohol consumption, certain medications, toxins, and more. Here in the U.S., hepatitis A, B, and C are most common.

How many types of hepatitis are there? 
There are 5 main types:  Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Types B and C lead to chronic disease like cancer and liver cirrhosis. Types A and E are most often caused by the accidental ingestion of contaminated food or water. Types B, C and D, on the other hand, usually occur as a result of contact with infected body fluids. Hepatitis B can even be transmitted from a mother to her newborn at birth. 

How do you get hepatitis?
Hepatitis can be transmitted in the following ways:

  • Viral infections (like hepatitis A, B, or C), bacteria, or parasites 
  • Liver damage from alcohol or other toxins
  • Medication overdose
  • Immune cells in the body attack the liver and causing autoimmune hepatitis

Is hepatitis contagious?
Yes, hepatitis A, B, and C are caused by viruses and are highly contagious. Keep in mind that each type is transmitted differently.

Which form of hepatitis is the most dangerous? 
Hepatitis B and C are considered to be more dangerous than other types because they can develop into chronic conditions.

Is hepatitis an STD? 
Yes, hepatitis can be contracted due to several methods include sexual intercourse. Certain types of hepatitis can be spread sexually when bodily fluids mix with infected fecal matter.

Does hepatitis go away? 
Yes, acute viral hepatitis typically goes away on its own without treatment. Chronic hepatitis, however, often lasts long-term and can eventually cause liver damage.

Is there a vaccine for hepatitis?
There are vaccines for hepatitis A and B, but not for hepatitis C.  


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