Hepatitis (A, B and C)

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that results in cell damage and destruction. The most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious and is usually spread by mouth. This happens when you have contact with objects, food or drinks that are contaminated by the stool of an infected person. It usually does not cause long-term sickness but it can take a while to fully recover. In some cases, hepatitis A can cause severe liver damage.

Symptoms of hepatitis A often look like flu symptoms and may include fever, chills, joint pain, fatigue, weakness, nausea or vomiting. Having good hygiene habits – like washing your hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food – can help prevent hepatitis A, and there is also a highly effective vaccine for the disease.

Hepatitis B is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, semen or saliva. Needle sticks, sharing items like razor or toothbrushes and having sex with an infected person are the main ways of getting this disease. Babies can also be infected if their mother has the virus. Hepatitis B can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) and it can cause permanent liver damage.

The most common symptoms of hepatitis B include loss of appetite, nausea, fever, muscle soreness, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine and easy bleeding and bruising. Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine, by using condoms during sex, not sharing needles or personal care items and by not touching another person’s blood or body fluids unless you are wearing gloves.

Hepatitis C is the most serious of the hepatitis viruses. It is primarily spread through contact with contaminated blood – most commonly through needles shared during illegal drug use – but can also occur from sexual contact or from an infected mother to a baby.

Symptoms of hepatitis C are usually mild or nonexistent. Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms and don’t know they have the disease until years later when liver damage shows up. Hepatitis C usually leads to chronic liver disease and is the leading cause for liver transplant and liver cancer. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, so people at risk should be tested regularly for the disease. People who are infected already should be monitored closely for signs of liver failure. 

Other types of hepatitis include:

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Drug-Induced Hepatitis

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Treatments

Many people recover from Hepatitis A without any medical care or treatment. In some cases, bed rest and some medicines may be needed.

Hepatitis B is usually not treated unless it becomes a long-term (chronic) infection. Then medicines are used to try to slow down or stop the virus from damaging the liver. In extreme cases when severe liver damage occurs, a liver transplant may be needed. There is no cure for hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications that will hopefully remove the virus from your body. New medicines have recently become available that are resulting in better outcomes, shorter treatment times and fewer side effects than previous treatments. If your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option.
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