Hepatitis A, B, C…Easy as 1, 2, 3

Posted By Author on April 17, 2024

When it comes to your health, being aware of your symptoms can be the most difficult task. With a list of generalized symptoms, ranging from general fatigue to nausea, spotting the onset of hepatitis can be tricky. 

Charleston GI is here to help!

At our GI clinic near you, our top priority is providing resources to help you recognize your symptoms and give you the knowledge to gain insight into your gut health. 

Keep reading as we break down everything from how the different types of hepatitis are spread to hepatitis prevention, then trust your gut, and contact Charleston GI for more information or to schedule an appointment. 

Hepatitis awareness

What is Viral Hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is an infection or inflammation of the liver.

The liver plays an important role in the body, processing nutrients, filtering the blood, and fighting infections. When the liver becomes inflamed, its primary functions may be hindered and negatively impacted, raising concerns to your overall health and wellness. 

There are at least six different types of hepatitis, but the most common types of viral hepatitis, or those caused by a virus, are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. These types are each caused by a different virus and are spread in different ways. 

Viral Hepatitis Symptoms 

Symptoms of hepatitis can be tricky to detect.

With an acute infection, symptoms can appear anytime from two weeks to six months after exposure. However, most people with hepatitis do not experience symptoms, and therefore have no idea they are infected. 

Despite their origins arising from different viruses, hepatitis symptoms are fairly similar across all three types. Symptoms can include: 

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper right area of your abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Pale/clay colored stool 

If you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, or have concerns on your overall gut health, contact a GI doctor near you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. 

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus, or HAV. It is common in many countries that don’t have access to modern sanitation, but outbreaks still occur within the U.S. 

How is Hepatitis A Spread? 

This virus is found in the feces of people with hepatitis A and is spread by direct contact or by eating food or drinking water contaminated with HAV. For example, this could occur if someone uses the restroom without washing their hands, then proceeds to prepare a meal for someone. 

How does it Affect the Body? 

The incubation period for hepatitis A ranges between 15 and 50 days before symptoms may arise. Once you have had the infection, you cannot get it again. While it can’t develop into a chronic condition, it is highly contagious with sickness lasting from a few weeks to a few months. 

How is it Treated? 

People who test positive for hepatitis A are typically treated through supportive care. Supportive care is a combination of rest, nutrition, and fluids to help relieve and overcome symptoms. 

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, or HBV. In 2020, about 14,000 estimated new infections of hepatitis B were reported and is a leading cause of liver cancer amongst individuals. 

How is Hepatitis B Spread? 

Hepatitis B is spread when contaminated blood or bodily fluid from an infected person enters the body of another person. It can be spread through unprotected sex, sharing needles, or the exposure to needles in a professional environment, such as a healthcare setting. 

Any exposure to blood could put you at risk for transmission. 

How Does it Affect the Body? 

The incubation period occurs between 45 to 160 days, averaging at 90 days. The risk of chronic infection can occur at different life stages: 

  • In up to 90% of infants infected at birth
  • In about 30% of infected children, ages 1-5 years old
  • Less than 5% of people infected over the age of 5

For those suffering with chronic HBV infection, there is a higher risk of liver failure and developing liver cancer. 

How is Hepatitis B Treated? 

For those who test positive for acute hepatitis B, supportive care is the best treatment to relieve symptoms. For people with chronic hepatitis B, they can be treated with antiviral drugs and should be monitored for signs of liver disease. 

If you find yourself at risk for hepatitis B, or are suffering from possible symptoms, contact one of our Charleston gastroenterology specialists today. 

There is a vaccine to help prevent hepatitis B, with two or three shots administered over a period of one to six months. Talk with your healthcare professional if you are interested in the hepatitis B vaccine or have further questions. 

Hepatitis C 

Hepatitis C is the final type in the list of common viral hepatitis infections. Caused by HCV, or the hepatitis C virus, had an estimated 66,700 new infections in 2020. 

How is it Spread? 

Similar to hepatitis B, HCV is spread when blood or bodily fluids are spread from an infected person to another. It is often spread through sharing or exposure to needles, or sometimes from an infected mother to her baby at birth. While it is possible for it to be spread during sex, it is not common. 

How Does it Affect the Body? 

The incubation period is between 14 to 180 days, with an average of about 45 days before symptoms occur. More than half of people who test positive for hepatitis C develop a chronic condition. Many of those with chronic hepatitis C either have no symptoms, or nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue or feelings of depression. 

Just as in the chronic form of hepatitis B, those with chronic hepatitis C are at higher risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. 

How is it Treated? 

There is no current vaccine for hepatitis C. The best course of action for those with HCV is antiviral medication. It’s estimated that over 90 percent of people with HCV can be cleared of the virus, but it is still possible for it to be contracted again after treatment is completed. 

Experiencing Symptoms of Hepatitis? Contact Charleston GI Today!

With a list of unspecified symptoms and potential for complications, viral hepatitis can leave you feeling anxious and worried.

With our knowledgeable Charleston GI doctors near you, we hope to ease your anxiety through information and resources to cope with hepatitis or other GI tract conditions. 

There’s no referral needed, making it simpler than ever to schedule your appointment with us today! We have four convenient Charleston area locations to choose from, in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads.

For more information, contact the gastroenterology office closest to you today. 

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