It’s Hepatitis Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to educate yourself about this common health condition. Although hepatitis prevention and treatment has come leaps and bounds over the last several decades, it’s still a health problem that we need to be aware of. Here’s what you need to know about hepatitis, including key symptoms, prevention, and treatment.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a condition in which the liver is inflamed, usually as a result of a virus. There are three different hepatitis viruses, A, B, and C. There are also types D and E, but they are much rarer. Each hepatitis type has its own unique causes and way of spreading. You can also get hepatitis as a result of other behaviors that affect the liver.
Everyone experiences hepatitis differently, depending on the type of hepatitis they have and their own personal health. However, there are certain symptoms that are incredibly common with hepatitis.
- Fatigue and flu-like symptoms
- Abnormally colored stools and urine
- Weight loss
- Changes in appetite
How does Hepatitis spread?
There are several different ways that hepatitis can spread, depending on which type you have.
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted through food and water that have been contaminated by an infected person. You can also contract it through sex or close contact with someone who has it.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through bodily fluids, so people typically get it through sexual intercourse with an infected person. Since it can also be transmitted through contact with infected blood, drug users are also at risk for it. Mothers can also transfer the virus to their children.
Hepatitis C is also spread through contact with bodily fluids and is transmitted in the same ways as hepatitis B. However, hepatitis C is much more common. You can also contract hepatitis without getting a virus. For example, you can get hepatitis from excessive alcohol use, which irritates the liver. You can also contract hepatitis as a result of another autoimmune condition.
How is Hepatitis Treated?
If you have already contracted hepatitis, there are treatments available. Hepatitis can either be acute, which means that it lasts only for a short period of time, or chronic, which means that it recurs over a long period of time. The treatment for hepatitis depends on which type you have.
Hepatitis A is always acute, which means it is just treated with bed rest. Your doctor may also recommend certain nutrition during the recovery period. Acute hepatitis B is treated the same way.
However, chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medication, as is both acute and chronic hepatitis C. In the most serious cases of hepatitis C, a liver transplant may be required.
How can you prevent Hepatitis?
The more we are aware of the consequences of hepatitis, the better we can prevent it. The first way to prevent hepatitis is to always practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and being careful about the food and water you consume, particularly if you are traveling to a developing country.
You should also avoid sharing needles, razors, and any other objects that could potentially come in contact with blood or bodily fluids. Finally, make sure you are using condoms for intimate sexual contact to prevent the spread through bodily fluids. You should also make sure that you and your family have been vaccinated for hepatitis. There are currently vaccines available for hepatitis A and B. Vaccines for hepatitis C are currently in development.