Last Updated on February 24, 2021 by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
How do you get Hepatitis/How can you get it? Hepatitis Causes:
Hepatitis A, B, & C are viruses that destroy the liver.
HBV (Hepatitis B) is the form spread most commonly through sexual activity. Hep A can be transmitted by oral-anal contact, and Hep C is thought to be more commonly transmitted by sexual contact than previously thought.
HBV is found in body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. It can also be transmitted to an infant during birth or breastfeeding.
The Hep A virus is found mostly in the stools and blood of an infected person. Hep C is contracted through coming in contact with a person’s blood and can also be passed from mother to child, although, less commonly than with Hep B.
Hep A is the least serious and mildest of these diseases. The other infections may become chronic illnesses, but Hep A does not become chronic.
How to tell if you have it? Symptoms:
Many people with Hep B or C do not have symptoms when they are first infected.
Hep A symptoms can include:
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pale-colored stools
- Yellow skin
Hep B symptoms can include:
- Appetite loss
- Fever, low-grade
- Muscle and joint aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellow skin and dark urine due to jaundice
Hep C symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain (right upper abdomen)
- Abdominal swelling
- Clay-colored or pale stools
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
How to know if you have it? Hepatitis Tests:
A physical examination by a doctor, blood tests, and with Hep C, genetic tests to determine the virus strain for treatment.
Once an infection is confirmed, additional tests are performed to asses damage and monitor the liver.
Relief spells (Rolaids?!) Hepatitis Treatment:
There is no specific treatment for Hep A.
Some patients with chronic hepatitis may be treated with antiviral medications or a medication called peginterferon. These medications can decrease or remove Hep B from the blood and reduce the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Liver transplants are used to treat severe, chronic Hep B liver disease.
Many patients with Hep C benefit from treatment with medications. The most common medications are a combination of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin, an antiviral medication.
What’s going to happen to me?!!?! Hepatitis Expectations:
The virus does not remain in the body after the infection has gone away. Over 85% of people with hepatitis A recover within 3 months. Nearly all patients get better within 6 months.
The acute illness usually goes away after 2 – 3 weeks. The liver usually returns to normal within 4 – 6 months in almost all patients who are infected. Some people develop chronic hepatitis.
- Almost all newborns and about 50% of children who become infected with hepatitis B develop chronic hepatitis. Less than 5% of adults who are infected with the hepatitis B virus develop the chronic condition.
- Chronic hepatitis B infection increases the risk for liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- People who have chronic hepatitis B can transmit the infection. They are considered carriers of the disease, even if they do not have any symptoms.
Most people with hepatitis C infection have the chronic form.
Patients with genotypes 2 or 3 are more likely to respond to treatment than patients with genotype 1. Newer drugs may improve the response of those with genotype 1. Many doctors use the term “sustained virologic response” rather than “cure” when the virus is removed from the blood, because it is not known whether this will last a person’s entire life. Even if treatment does not remove the virus, it can reduce the chance of severe liver disease.
Things to be aware of… Hepatitis Complications:
There are usually no complications. One in a thousand cases becomes fulminant hepatitis, which can be life threatening.
There is a much higher rate of hepatocellular carcinoma in people who have chronic hepatitis B than in the general population.
Other complications may include:
- Chronic persistent hepatitis
- Fulminant hepatitis, which can lead to liver failure and possibly death
Hepatitis C is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States today. People with this condition may have:
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Liver cancer (also called hepatocellular cancer) — may develop in a small number of people with liver cirrhosis
Hepatitis C usually comes back after a liver transplant, which can lead to cirrhosis of the new liver.
- Difference Between Hep A, B, & C
- Hepatitis Resources
- How to Not Give an Eff about Having an STI
- STI Interviews
- Sexual Health Hotlines
- Hepatitis Vaccines
- Living with Hep C
- Hep C Symptoms & Disease Progression
- Testing for Hep C
- Hep C Transmission Risk
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