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Hepatitis

The word hepatitis means an inflammation of the liver.  There are many causes of hepatitis.

  • An infection of the liver: Hepatitis viruses A, B, and C are the most common causes
  • Liver damage caused by a poison
  • Liver damage when it doesn’t get enough blood
  • The body’s own immune system attacks the liver
  • Trauma to the abdomen in the area of the liver

How is Hepatitis diagnosed?

Hepatitis can be diagnosed through blood tests, symptoms and a physical exam.  A positive test means you have been exposed to hepatitis and have antibodies.  The blood test can show if you are a carrier of hepatitis. If you are a carrier, you can infect other people.

A negative tests show you have never been infected and can still get hepatitis.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms of Hepatitis can vary from mild to severe.

  • You may have flu like symptoms such as fever, tired, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice (yellow coloring of your skin and the white part of your eyes, dark yellow urine, light colored feces)

Are there different kinds of Hepatitis?

Yes, there are different kinds of hepatitis.  Here are the most common ones.

Hepatitis  A Virus (HAV)

Hepatitis A can be a mild infection and some people don’t know they have it.  It is usually a short-lived illness, symptoms last 2 months or less and does not cause chronic liver disease.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

  • Hepatitis A is found in the feces of an infected person.   Only a tiny amount is needed inside   another person’s mouth to cause Hepatitis A. 
  • Living in, working in or going to school in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions
  • In contaminated food or water
  • It can be spread by uncooked hepatitis A infected food.
  • Chlorinated water as recommended in the United States kills the Hepatits A virus 
  • Having sex with an infected person

What can I do to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A?

  • WASH your hands after having a bowel movement.
  • WASH your hands after contact with an infected person.
  • Toilets and sinks used by infected person should be cleaned with antiseptic cleansers.
  • Wash genital and anal areas before sex.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel to counties where there is a lot of Hepatitis A infected people.

Treatment

  • No specific treatment
  • Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet
  • Avoid alcohol and fatty foods
  • Once you have been infected and fought off the virus, you are immune (you won’t get it again) and you won’t give it to anyone else.

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

How is Hepatitis B spread?

  • By an exchange of body fluids (blood, saliva, semen, vaginal fluids, tears and urine) with an infected person
  • Through a contaminated blood transfusion in a country where blood is not screened for viruses    Blood is screened in the United States.
  • Sharing contaminated needles or syringes for drug use.
  • Having sexual activity with a Hepatitis B infected person
  • Infected mothers to their newborn babies during childbirth.

Hepatitis B is NOT spread by sneezing, coughing, hugging or coming in contact with an infected person.

What can I do to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis B?

  • WASH your hands after contact with an infected person
  • Always use protection and limit sexual contact with multiple partners.
  • Do NOT share needles and syringes.
  • A vaccine is available to keep you from getting Hepatitis B.

Treatment

  • You will be sent to a specialist and have tests done to see if your liver has been affected.
  • Anti viral medication may be given for 3-6 months to prevent further damage to the liver.
  • Rest and a healthy diet
  • Avoid alcohol and fatty foods.
  • Most adults infected with Hepatitis B fully recover and develop a life long immunity and won’t be contagious. There are some people who will always be contagious.
  • Hepatitis B is more likely to cause chronic long- term illness and permanent damage to the liver if left untreated.

Complications

  • Chronic Hepatitis
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Liver Cancer

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

Hepatitis C is mostly spread by blood and is more common than Hepatitis A or B. You may have it and not have symptoms for 10-30 years. It can cause damage to your liver even if you don’t have symptoms.  Hepatitis C can leas to chronic liver disease and is the leading cause for living transplant. 

How is Hepatitis C spread?

  • Having direct contact with an infected person’s blood.
  • Sharing drug needles or straws
  • Getting a tattoo, body piercing, or acupuncture with unsterilized tools
  • etting blood transfusions in countries that don’t screen for Hepatitis C.   Blood is screened in the United States.
  • Infected mothers to their newborn babies during childbirth
  • Is not commonly spread by sexual contact but still can be if there are genital sores, cuts or during menstruation.
  • Sharing items that might contain a person’s blood like razors and     toothbrushes

What can I do to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis C?

  • WASH your hands after contact with an infected person
  • Use protection and limit sexual contact with infected person
  • DO not share needles and syringes

Hepatitis C is NOT spread by hugging, sneezing, coughing, sharing food or silverware, or casual contact.

Treatment

  • Two tests will be done to find out how much of the liver has been affected.
  • Liver Function Tests: A blood test to measure how well the liver is working.
  • Liver Biopsy: A sample is taken from the liver and looked at to see the amount of liver damage.
  • Antiviral drugs: Treatment is improving but it is only successful in getting rid of the virus in less than 50% of the people.
  • There is no vaccine at this time.
  • At this time, people with hepatitis C will continue to be contagious.

Complications

  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Liver Cancer

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune Hepatitis is when the body’s immune system attacks liver cells.   This causes the liver to become inflamed. It is a serious disease and if not treated will get worse over time. Mostly women between the ages of 15 and 40 get this disease.

Causes

  • An acute infection such as Hepatitis A or B, measles, or Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
  • Medications like Interferon, Aldoril, Lipitor or on overdosage of Tylenol can affect the liver
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Often people who get autoimmune hepatitis have other autoimmune disorders like thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis.

Treatment

  • Steroid therapy
  • Changing medication