What You Must Know About Viral Hepatitis

Medically reviewed by Ayanna Lewis, M.D.

July 28, 2022, is World Hepatitis Day.

Do you know that greater than half the individuals residing with hepatitis don’t know they’ve it? We reached out to Ayanna Lewis, M.D., a gastroenterologist and member of HealthyWomen’s Girls’s Well being Advisory Council, to search out out what individuals ought to find out about this viral an infection.

What’s viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is a viral an infection that causes irritation and injury to the liver.

What are the various kinds of viral hepatitis? 

There are 5 frequent varieties of viral hepatitis. Most individuals have heard of hepatitis A, B and C — however there are additionally two others: hepatitis D and E.

  • Hepatitis A is discovered within the stool of an contaminated particular person and is most frequently unfold via contaminated meals or water.
  • Hepatitis B is transmitted via hepatitis B contaminated blood or different bodily fluids, equivalent to semen.
  • Hepatitis C is unfold via publicity to hepatitis C-infected blood.
  • Hepatitis D solely happens in people who find themselves additionally contaminated with hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis E is uncommon and is unfold via meals or water that has been contaminated by the virus present in an contaminated particular person’s stool.

Which varieties of hepatitis are the most typical?

Not surprisingly, the extra well-known varieties of hepatitis — A, B and C — are the most typical. Of the three, hepatitis C was the most typical in 2019.

What are the danger elements for getting viral hepatitis?

The chance elements for getting viral hepatitis are carefully associated to the way it’s unfold. Hepatitis A spreads by consuming or consuming contaminated meals or water. Working or touring in nations the place the virus is frequent which have poor meals security practices is a standard danger issue.

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are each transmitted via contaminated blood. Widespread danger elements for these sorts embrace sharing needles throughout IV drug use, having a job that exposes you to doubtlessly contaminated blood, or being born to an contaminated mom. Hepatitis B will also be unfold via different bodily fluids equivalent to semen. So, partaking in unprotected intercourse is a danger issue for hepatitis B.

What are the signs of viral hepatitis?

Hepatitis A signs embrace gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, belly ache and lack of urge for food. Different attainable signs are low-grade fever, fatigue, darkish urine, joint ache, jaundice (yellowing of the pores and skin and whites of the eyes), clay-colored stool or intense itching. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections usually haven’t any signs, however when signs do seem, they’re just like these of hepatitis A.

As a result of hepatitis infections usually haven’t any signs, you possibly can have them for years with out realizing. This will result in disastrous penalties, equivalent to cirrhosis, which is extreme liver illness, and even liver most cancers.

What are the remedies for viral hepatitis?

Remedy for viral hepatitis varies by the sort and stage of the an infection. Hepatitis A infections often go away on their very own inside two months. You will need to get loads of relaxation, hydration and good vitamin when therapeutic. In distinction, hepatitis B and hepatitis C could develop into continual situations lasting six months or extra. These can result in liver illness. If caught inside 12 hours of publicity, hepatitis B will be handled with an injection of immunoglobulin (an antibody). The hepatitis B vaccine must also be given if the particular person has not been vaccinated. Folks with continual infections may have therapy for the remainder of their lives to scale back the dangers of growing liver illness and infecting others. Nonetheless, within the final decade, there have been thrilling breakthroughs within the therapy of hepatitis C infections utilizing direct-acting antiviral medicine, which may remedy the an infection inside 8-12 weeks with fewer unwanted effects than the older remedies.

Is there a vaccine for hepatitis?

Sadly, there aren’t any vaccines for hepatitis C, D or E. Nonetheless, secure and extremely efficient vaccines that shield towards hepatitis A and hepatitis B do exist, and they’re part of the CDC’s beneficial baby and adolescent immunization schedule. Adults who didn’t get vaccinated throughout childhood might also get the vaccines. For steerage on when it is likely to be acceptable, see the CDC’s grownup immunization schedule and seek the advice of your major care supplier.

What’s a hepatitis flare-up and what are the remedies, if any?

A hepatitis flare-up most frequently refers to sufferers with continual hepatitis B infections who expertise a sudden enhance in liver irritation. That is often the results of a change within the physique’s immune defenses towards hepatitis B. An instance is reactivation of hepatitis attributable to drugs that suppress the immune system, equivalent to chemotherapy, antirejection medicine and corticosteroids. Relying on the reason for the flare-up, antiviral therapies is likely to be used for therapy. Within the case of autoimmune hepatitis, flare-ups might be a results of an overactive immune response. In these instances, drugs that suppress the immune system could also be wanted.

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