Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
May 6, 2021
According to the CDC, an estimated 2.4 million Americans have hepatitis C, and 850,000 have hepatitis B. Approximately half of those living with hepatitis B and C don’t know they have it and therefore are at risk of spreading it. Hepatitis is a serious viral infection that takes a heavy toll on those who suffer it. If you’re curious about this condition, its causes, symptoms, and treatments, this article is for you. Read on to learn the facts about hepatitis.
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Hepatitis is characterized as an inflammation of the liver. Inflammation can be acute or chronic. Viruses or non-infectious causes such as alcohol and some medications can cause it. There are five different types of hepatitis, each with some minor differences in their transmission vector.
“Hepatitis can be an acute (short-term) infection, or a chronic (long-term) infection,” explains the National Library of Medicine. “Some types of hepatitis cause only acute infections. Other types can cause both acute and chronic infections.”
HAV is transmitted most commonly through consuming food or beverages contaminated with feces from a person carrying HAV.
HAV symptoms include:
HBV is contracted through contact with infectious body fluids from HBV carriers. Sharing needles and razors is another way to acquire this type of hepatitis.
HBV symptoms include:
HCV is one of the most common bloodborne viruses in the United States. It is transmitted through the same medium as HBV and causes the same symptoms as HBV.
The chief difference between the two is that according to the CDC, 70-80% of people living with HCV do not experience any symptoms.
HDV, or Delta Hepatitis, is contracted only through contact with blood carrying the virus. Hepatitis D is the least common form of hepatitis, as it cannot replicate itself without existing in tandem with Hepatitis B.
HDV symptoms include:
Lastly, HEV is found in contaminated water or by eating undercooked pork or wild game. Prevalence of this type of hepatitis is common in regions with poor water sanitation, as ingesting waterborne fecal matter particles from an infected person will cause transmission.
Hepatitis is a viral infection that is transmitted through a few different vectors. There are many ways to catch hepatitis if you’re not careful about sanitation and bodily fluid transmission. Here is a list of the potential transmission mediums that hepatitis can take:
Some potential transmission vectors for hepatitis B and C are:
Having unprotected sex with a carrier of hepatitis B or C may cause transmission. Hepatitis B can be contracted by sharing needles with an infected person or having broken skin or mucosal membranes come in contact with infected bodily fluids. Hepatitis C is most commonly spread by using contaminated needles.
Coming into contact with the blood of someone carrying hepatitis B, C, or D may cause you to contract the disease. This scenario usually occurs when someone uses a syringe or razor that was previously used by a hepatitis carrier. The per-event probability of contracting the hepatitis C virus is estimated at between 1 and 3 percent. This risk is one of the reasons why you should never share needles or razors, especially since about half of people living with hepatitis B and C are not aware that they have it.
Exposure to the fecal matter of someone carrying hepatitis A or E is the most likely way to contract these viruses, especially in developing countries. This only occurs when you drink water that is either not sanitized or poorly sanitized. Occurrences of this transmission are common in less developed countries where sanitation is not standardized.
Hepatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the liver. Aside from infectious hepatitis, there are a few other ways one can develop the condition. One of them is excessive alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can damage the liver, and drinking too much can cause liver inflammation. On that note, any medication or substance that affects the liver can cause inflammation if misused or overdosed.
Additionally, your immune system can mistake your liver cells for a foreign or harmful threat such as viruses or bacteria. Your immune system destroys healthy liver cells. This is called an autoimmune response.
Initially, hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver. In addition to causing discomfort, it can also lead to some serious health issues down the road.
The most dangerous outcomes of liver inflammation are:
The liver is an essential organ for bile production, the filtering of toxins from the body, and the excretion of cholesterol, hormones, and drugs.
In the absence of a fully functioning liver, your body will be unable to filter out and expel harmful substances from the body, causing even further health issues down the road.
On top of the health complications made possible by hepatitis, there is a host of health issues that can be caused by hepatitis.
Commonly, flu-like symptoms are experienced by those who contract hepatitis, such as:
Signs of hepatitis include dark urine and pale stool. Excessive amounts of the pigment bilirubin are excreted in urine when liver cells are damaged, giving it its dark color. Excess bile is excreted in the stool, making it normally dark in color. When liver cells are damaged and bile is not properly excreted in the stool, the stool may be clay-colored. Additionally, liver problems cause the yellowing of the skin and eyes, known as jaundice, due to high bilirubin levels in the bloodstream.
Hepatitis is a serious illness that can take a toll on the health of those who suffer it. Living with hepatitis for long enough in the absence of the proper treatment will cause long-term and life-threatening health issues.
Hepatitis A and E do not have specific medications that can be used because these are infections that often resolve themselves. If you’re dealing with these hepatitis types, your doctor may suggest that the best course of action is to rest, hydrate, and keep up proper nutrition.
For hepatitis B and C, antiviral medications should be taken to curb the infection. Antiviral drug therapies tend to work against both chronic and acute cases of HCV and chronic hepatitis B.
Also, avoiding alcohol during your hepatitis recovery period is essential. Women who are pregnant and develop hepatitis should contact a doctor immediately to seek the best course of action.
You can get antiviral medications online, although they require a prescription. You can also get advice on how to prevent and manage hepatitis. To receive a prescription and learn more about the best treatment for hepatitis, you can talk to a qualified online doctor with our partners at PlushCare. Click here to make an appointment with a doctor from PlushCare.
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