What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is also known as viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is the swelling that occurs when tissues of the body are injured or infected. It could damage your liver. This swelling and damage could affect how well your liver functions.
Hepatitis could be an acute (short-term) infection or a chronic (long-term) infection. Certain types of hepatitis cause only acute infections. Other types could cause both acute and chronic infections.
What Causes Hepatitis?
There are different types of hepatitis, and they have different causes:
- Viral hepatitis is the most frequent type. It is caused by one of the many viruses -- hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses. In the United States, A, B, and C are the most common.
- Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by high levels of alcohol consumption
- Toxic hepatitis could be caused by certain poisons, chemicals, medicines, or supplements
- Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic type where your body's immune system attacks your liver. The cause is not known, but genetics and your environment might play a role.
How is Viral Hepatitis Spread?
Hepatitis A and hepatitis E generally spread through contact with food or water that was contaminated with an infected person's stool. You could also get hepatitis E by eating undercooked pork, deer, or shellfish.
Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D spread through contact with the blood of a person with the disease. Hepatitis B and D might also spread through contact with other body fluids. This could happen in many ways, such as sharing drug needles or having unprotected sex.
Who is at Risk for Hepatitis?
The risks are different depending upon the different types of hepatitis. For example, with most of the viral types, your risk is greater if you have unprotected sex. People who drink too much for long periods of time are at risk for alcoholic hepatitis.
What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?
Some people who have hepatitis do not have symptoms and are not aware that they are infected. If you do have symptoms, they might include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice, yellowing of your skin and eyes
If you have an acute infection, your symptoms could start anywhere between two weeks to six months after you got infected. If you have a chronic infection, you might not have symptoms until many years later.
What Other Problems Can Hepatitis Cause?
Chronic hepatitis could lead to complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of chronic hepatitis might prevent these complications.
How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed?
To diagnose hepatitis, your health care provider:
- Will ask about your symptoms as well as your medical history
- Will do a physical examination
- Will probably do blood tests, including tests for viral hepatitis
- Might do imaging tests, like an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI
- May need to do a liver biopsy to obtain a clear diagnosis and check for liver damage
What Are the Treatments for Hepatitis?
Treatment for hepatitis depends upon which type you have and whether it is acute or chronic. Acute viral hepatitis usually goes away by itself. To feel better, you might just need to rest and get enough fluids. But in some cases, it might be more severe. You may even need treatment in a hospital.
There are different medications to treat the different chronic types of hepatitis. Possible other treatments might include surgery and other medical procedures. People who have alcoholic hepatitis need to quit drinking. If your chronic hepatitis leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you might need a liver transplant.
Can Hepatitis be Prevented?
There are different ways to prevent or lower your risk for hepatitis, depending upon the type of hepatitis. For example, not drinking too much alcohol could prevent alcoholic hepatitis. Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Autoimmune hepatitis can’t be prevented.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from Hepatitis, our expert providers at Vegas Health will take care of your health and help you recover. Call (702)-551-5212 to book an appointment with our specialists.