Hepatitis

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There are three different kinds of hepatitis, some of which are spread more easily than others. Hepatitis A, B and C can all be transmitted sexually, however hepatitis B is the type most likely to be sexually transmitted. All types of hepatitis are serious and affect the liver. Hepatitis B and C are the leading cause of liver cancer and are the most common reason for liver transplants.

Symptom Overview

Hepatitis is a swelling of the liver that makes it stop working well. Viruses cause most cases of hepatitis. The most common viruses are Hepatitis A, B, and C. There is a vaccination for Hepatitis A & B. Sometimes hepatitis goes away by itself. If it does not, it can be treated with drugs. Sometimes hepatitis lasts a lifetime.

Many people have hepatitis and don’t know it. Everyone does not have immediate symptoms. Some common symptoms are:

– Yellow skin or eyes
– No appetite (they don’t want to eat)
– Feeling extremely tired
– Brown or dark urine (pee)
– Light or gray stools
– Pain in the stomach, muscles or joints

Who

Each year in the U.S. there are about:
– 17,000 new cases of hepatitis A
– 38,000 new cases of hepatitis B, and
– 17,000 new cases of hepatitis C.

About 3.2 million people in the US are chronically infected with hepatitis C.

Transmission

Hepatitis A is found primarily in fecal matter. Small (microscopic) particles may be found in food or drinks.

Hepatitis B and C infections happen due to:

– Unprotected sex
– Sharing needles
– Exposure to blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

Hepatitis is a strong virus, and can survive outside the body. To reduce risks avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, and other items that may have body fluids on them.

Testing

Hepatitis is diagnosed by a blood test (serology) to determine the type of virus that is causing the infection (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C). A rapid test 20 minute blood test is available for Hepatitis C.

Treatment

Hepatitis A is does not require any specific form of treatment. Most people fully recover within a few weeks.

Hepatitis B often does not require treatment. Most people fully recover within a few weeks. Some will develop a chronic infection that can be treated with antiviral medications.

Most people with hepatitis C develop chronic infection – medications such as interferon and ribavirin can significantly improve liver function and quality of life.

Living with It

Chronic hepatitis B or C infection can lead to long-term complications such as cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver or liver cancer. To improve quality of life:

– Take antiviral medication
– Eliminate/reduce injection drug use
– Seek substance abuse treatment
– Practice safer sex with condoms

 

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