Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver. The symptoms, causes, and treatments available for this disease differ depending on the type you have. Some cases are mild and do not require treatment, while others are severe and require ongoing management. Knowing more about this disease can help ensure that you receive the care you need for it.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
There are three types of hepatitis that can occur:
Hepatitis A can cause fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, appetite loss and joint pain. These symptoms are typically mild and usually appear after you have had the virus for a few weeks. Some people who have this type of hepatitis do not experience any noticeable symptoms.
Hepatitis B can cause you to have similar symptoms as hepatitis A, including yellowing of the skin and the white parts of your eyes. Symptoms generally appear within a few months after you have been infected with this virus, although they can also appear within a couple of weeks.
Hepatitis C usually causes no symptoms for a number of years. When the disease has caused liver damage, which can take decades to occur, the symptoms that might appear include bleeding and bruising easily, jaundice, leg swelling, fatigue, dark urine and itchy skin.
Causes of Hepatitis
You can get hepatitis A after being exposed to food or water that is contaminated or through exposure to this virus from someone who is infected.
Hepatitis B spreads through exposure to this virus in bodily fluids. Although it can become chronic, adults typically recover from it.
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with contaminated blood. This form of the virus is considered the most serious, since it can cause severe, long-term liver damage before it is caught.
Treatment Options for Hepatitis
Hepatitis A often requires no special treatments, since the virus clears on its own. Your doctor might recommend resting, avoiding alcohol, and managing nausea while you recover.
Hepatitis B can cause acute infections that clear on their own and do not require special care. Chronic hepatitis B infections might require ongoing medication, such as antiviral medications or interferon injections. Severe cases might require a liver transplant.
Without treatment, hepatitis C can cause liver failure and other serious complications that can be life-threatening. Treatment options for this infection include taking antiviral medications for several weeks in order to eliminate the virus from your body. When there is severe damage to the liver, treatment options include having a liver transplant done.
You can prevent hepatitis A by getting a vaccine that protects you from this virus. If you have this infection, you should avoid sexual activity until you have recovered. You should also wash your hands often and avoid preparing food to lower your risk of spreading it to others.
There is a vaccine available for hepatitis B to reduce the risk of having this illness. You can also lower your risk by being careful when getting tattoos or body piercings, taking precautions with sexual activity and avoiding the use of illegal drugs that involve needles.
Lowering the risk of hepatitis C involves following the same prevention tips as hepatitis B, such as being careful with sexual activity and not using illegal drugs. There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C, but your doctor might recommend getting vaccines to protect you from hepatitis A and hepatitis B as a precaution.
If you need more information on hepatitis, please contact Anthony S. Borcich, MD PC to schedule an appointment.