Viral infections are the most common cause of hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver. Some varieties of hepatitis cause discomfort but go away on their own, whereas others, such as chronic hepatitis C, can be fatal.
Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E are viral hepatitis types that can be transmitted in a variety of ways.
Toxic exposures and autoimmune illness are two other non-viral causes of hepatitis.
Hepatitis C is the greatest cause of liver cancer in the United States, as well as the primary cause of liver transplants. Hepatitis B affects approximately 1.2 million Americans, while chronic hepatitis C affects over 3 million, many of whom are unaware of their infection.
“The liver is in charge of filtering undesirable elements from the bloodstream, such as dead cells, poisons, lipids, hormones, and bilirubin, a yellowish material produced by the breakdown of old red blood cells,” says Rashmi Gulati, MD, medical director.
“The liver becomes unable to operate correctly when it is inflammatory, irritated, and swollen. As a result, toxins that would typically be filtered out by the liver accumulate in the body, and certain nutrients are not properly metabolized or stored.”
Hepatitis comes in a variety of forms.
Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most prevalent viral causes of hepatitis. Hepatitis D and hepatitis E are two further types of hepatitis.
According to Dr. Gulati, hepatitis C is the most dangerous of the more frequent viral kinds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis C causes more than 16,000 deaths in the United States each year (CDC).
According to Gulati, over 85% of hepatitis C infections result in chronic liver disease. “The virus causes liver damage that is sluggish to develop but ultimately fatal.” Hepatitis A and B are both potentially fatal. “Acute liver disease can be caused by the hepatitis A virus, but it usually heals within a few months. It can induce high-spiking fevers, and it affects adults more than children, according to Gulati.
“The hepatitis B virus has an 85% recovery rate, but 15% of people suffer cirrhosis or liver cancer.”
Hepatitis D, one of the rarer viral types, can coexist with hepatitis B, resulting in a deadly combination. Hepatitis E is more common outside of the United States, and pregnant women appear to be the most vulnerable.
Toxic hepatitis is caused by exposure to chemicals such as drugs and alcohol, rather than by a virus. Without the presence of a virus, autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body’s immune system malfunctions and targets its own liver.
How Is Hepatitis Spread?
Hepatitis A is typically transmitted from person to person or by consuming infected food or water. Raw seafood from polluted waterways can potentially spread the sickness in some situations.
Infected blood or other bodily fluids are commonly used to spread hepatitis B and C.
Accidental blood exposure puts doctors, dentists, and nurses, as well as workers and patients at blood banks, dialysis clinics, and pathology laboratories, at a higher risk of contracting various types of hepatitis.
Drug users who share needles, as well as those who have unprotected intercourse with an infected person, are at high risk of developing hepatitis B and C.
Hepatitis Symptoms and Signs
According to Dr. Gulati, hepatitis can similarly manifest itself as a bad case of the flu. The following are some of the most common hepatitis symptoms:
- Appetite loss
- Muscle aches
- Joint pains
Dark urine, pale, clay-colored feces, abdominal discomfort, and jaundice, a yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin caused by an accumulation of bilirubin, are further warning signs to watch for.
A simple blood test will reveal raised liver enzymes if you have hepatitis. Additional blood tests can assist determine which virus is at blame if any.
What To Do About Hepatitis
If you have hepatitis A or B, in most cases you’ll get better with a doctor’s care and supportive treatment without specific antiviral treatments.
Hepatitis C and other chronic types will most likely have a greater impact on your life, but you can take steps to manage and control the disease.
If someone in your household has hepatitis, it’s also critical to take the necessary steps to prevent the disease from spreading.
Handwashing is crucial when it comes to hepatitis A. When it comes to hepatitis B and C, it’s important to avoid coming into contact with the infected person’s blood, even the minuscule amounts that can be found in toothbrushes and razors, therefore never share these products.
Hepatitis C can be suppressed or even eradicated with treatment. A combination of antiviral therapy with pegylated interferon and ribavirin is an older treatment for hepatitis C. The medication had unpleasant side effects and was only effective in 40 to 80 percent of patients, depending on their kind of hepatitis C.
The FDA authorized newer medications in 2013 and 2014 that are more successful, treating a viral infection in 90% or more of patients. New antiviral drugs for hepatitis C include simeprevir (Olysio) and sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), as well as Harvoni and Viekira Pak, which are combination therapy.
Preventing Hepatitis Hepatitis A and B vaccines are available for at-risk persons, such as health care professionals.
“Vaccination for hepatitis A helps prevent transmission of the disease in patients who are at risk of exposure or who have been exposed,” says Kimberly Brown, MD, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
“Patients who live with someone who has hepatitis B, have a sexual partner who has hepatitis B, were born to a mother who has hepatitis B, or work in health care should get vaccinated against hepatitis B.” Because hepatitis C has no vaccine, patients must be informed that avoiding blood-to-blood contact with infected people is crucial.”
To avoid hepatitis, the best strategy is to take all precautions. This includes avoiding sexual or blood contact with someone who may be contaminated and speaking with your doctor about your worries if you believe you.