Millions of people are infected with hepatitis, and most of them aren’t aware of it. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that for one particular type of hepatitis – many baby boomers have been unknowingly living with it for years.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, an organ that’s located in the right upper part of your abdomen. Your liver is responsible for a variety of important functions, including the production of bile, which helps with digestion. It also filters toxins from the body and breaks down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
In some cases, people can be infected with hepatitis for years and will show no symptoms. Yet, it can cause fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, stomach pain, or yellow skin or eyes after you first contract the disease.
What Are the Different Types of Hepatitis?
There are five main types of hepatitis – hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – each of which is caused by a different virus. Types A, B, and C are the most common.
What Causes It?
Hepatitis is most often caused by certain viruses, but they can also be caused by alcohol, certain drugs, and autoimmune diseases.
The main ways that hepatitis is contracted by each type:
- Hepatitis A – eating or drinking something with the hepatitis A virus in it
- Hepatitis B & C – having sex with someone who’s infected, sharing dirty needles or directly contacting the blood or bodily fluids of someone with the disease
- Hepatitis D – having direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. This type can only be contracted if you already have hepatitis D
- Hepatitis E – consuming contaminated foods or drinking contaminated water
How Can You Avoid Getting Hepatitis?
The best ways to avoid getting the disease:
- Get Vaccinated – Available for types A and B
- Take Precautions When Traveling – Avoid contaminated water, as well as raw fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in contaminated water
- Wash Your Hands Regularly – If there is a possibility that water could be contaminated, use hand sanitizer
- Practice Safer Sex – Use protection (i.e. condoms)
- Don’t Share Personal Items – Such as razors and toothbrushes
- Limit Potential Toxins – Avoid overconsumption of alcohol and acetaminophen (Tylenol)
How Is Hepatitis Treated?
Treatment typically depends on the type of hepatitis you have been diagnosed with.
- For hepatitis A – your doctor will check to make sure your liver is still functioning well, but there isn’t a cure it. It’s usually a short-term illness
- Acute hepatitis B isn’t usually treated, but the chronic type of the disease can be treated with antiviral medications
- Both acute and chronic hepatitis C are treated with antiviral medications
- Hepatitis D can be treated with alpha interferon, but this medication, is only successful in about 25%-30% of cases
- No treatment currently exists for hepatitis E, but it usually resolves on its own. However, pregnant women who contact it should be closely monitored
For more information about hepatitis, including its prevention and treatment, make an appointment today with Dr. Borcich in NYC. He has experience diagnosing and treating hepatitis as well as other types of liver diseases.