Hepatic (Liver) Diseases
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by highly contagious viral infections. It is most often passed through contaminated food or water, or from close contact with an infected person, but may also be transmitted sexually or through sharing needles. Although hepatitis A is not usually serious, certain measures are recommended to prevent this infection.
Symptoms of hepatitis A can vary from none at all to severe, with most cases lasting for one to two months. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle pain
If you are experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A, your doctor may perform blood tests to measure bilirubin and enzyme levels. A special blood test may also be performed to pinpoint which type of hepatitis is present.
Most people do not require treatment for hepatitis A and the infection will go away on its own within a month or two. Certain options are available for relieving symptoms of the infection, but you should talk to your doctor before taking any steps. There is a vaccination for hepatitis A that is recommended for all children and people at high risk for infection. This has greatly decreased the occurrence of hepatitis A. You can also help prevent this condition by practicing safe sex and proper hygiene.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by a viral infection that can become a serious, chronic condition and may permanently damage the liver. This infection is spread through the blood and other bodily fluids of an infected person and can be transmitted through shared needles, sexual contact or even traveling to contaminated areas of the world.
Many people with hepatitis B experience symptoms similar to the flu. Some of these symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
Some cases of hepatitis B will be completely cleared from the body within six months, while others may become a chronic condition. Children that are infected are more likely to develop a chronic infection. If you are experiencing symptoms of hepatitis B or have been exposed to a situation in which you may have been infected, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor may perform a series of blood tests to diagnose hepatitis B.
Chronic hepatitis B is often monitored through regular drug treatment. Severe cases may require a liver transplant to replace a damaged liver. Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine that is usually given within the first 12 hours of life. Practicing safe sex and proper hygiene can also help protect yourself against this infection.
Hepatitis C is a chronic liver infection that is considered the most serious of all the hepatitis viruses, as it can lead to cancer, liver failure or cirrhosis. This virus is spread mostly through blood and can be transmitted through shared needles or blood transfusions. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Many people with hepatitis C do not even know they have the disease, as it often causes no symptoms. Some people may experience mild fatigue, nausea or joint pain. Despite the lack of symptoms, the hepatitis C virus can still cause damage to your liver and be passed to others. The condition is often not diagnosed until a routine screening examination is performed, sometimes decades after the initial infection.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you think you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus. Your doctor may perform a blood test and liver biopsy to diagnose a hepatitis infection. While some people recover from this condition with no permanent damage, many people experience a gradual attack on the liver that will eventually lead to cirrhosis and even cancer in some cases.
Hepatitis C does not always require treatment, especially if you are not experiencing symptoms and have a low risk of developing a chronic condition. Most patients undergo combination drug therapy for several months in hopes of curing the infection. A liver transplant may be required for people with severe infections.
Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, you can protect yourself against infection by practicing safe sex and proper hygiene. These steps are also important if you are already infected, along with avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs. Despite the serious complications associated with hepatitis C, it can be a manageable condition with proper treatment and life changes.