Did you know that approximately 300 million people worldwide have viral hepatitis without even knowing it? What’s worse is that millions of people go through their lives every day without experiencing any symptoms; They’re hepatitis can stay ‘undercover’ for years, if not more!
While many hepatitis patients can lead long and healthy lives, there are still cases of the illness out there that can cause life-threatening problems. Specific life-threatening problems generally affect the liver drastically, in turn, targeting and diminishing the body’s ability to digest food properly and filter out harmful toxins. This is why detecting hepatitis and treating hepatitis is vital to keeping up a good, healthy life.
So, let’s get right into everything you need to know about hepatitis.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a disease that targets and affects the liver. The most common types of hepatitis are types A, B, C, D, and E.
What you need to know and understand is that every form of hepatitis is completely different. They all affect people in drastically different ways. For some, the disease may go away on its own. For others, the disease may become chronic and last for a long time, in turn requiring medication to cure the person.
Prevention and treatment are different for each type. Let’s take a look at each type right now.
This type of hepatitis is the only one that cannot turn chronic and it’s transmitted through food and/or water that is contaminated by the virus. Typically, the virus gets into food and water through another person’s poop. Allow me to explain this a little bit further. If a person goes to the bathroom and doesn’t wash their hands afterward, the virus can then be spread.
Hepatitis A can also be transmitted by other means, too. For example, sexual intercourse and intravenous drug usage can pass the virus along.
Though hepatitis A is rarely found in the United States, we should still try to look out for it. You can do this early on in life by getting vaccinated when you’re a baby through your doctor’s office.
If you want to be more aware of this type of virus, watch out for symptoms like fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and dark urine. Hepatitis A only lasts a few weeks and it goes away on its own. If you’d like to have a speedy recovery, make sure you rest up, eat healthily, and drink a lot of fluids.
Hepatitis B generally clears up in adults within a few months. However, children under the age of 5 typically cannot get rid of the virus. Their bodies are too weak and unable to fend off the virus, therefore chronically infecting the child.
Hepatitis B can only be spread through bodily fluids such as blood and semen. Generally, the two main ways to get this type of hepatitis is by having unprotected sex or by sharing intravenous needles. Typically, babies contract the virus from their mothers if their mothers are infected.
As of today, over one million people in the United States have this strain of the virus in their bodies. Vaccines are available and they are given to newborns almost immediately after birth.
If you want to be more aware of this type of virus, watch out for symptoms like fever, fatigue, dark urine, jaundice, joint pain, and loss of appetite. Usually, people who have acute hepatitis B have these symptoms. On the other hand, those that have the chronic form tend to not experience any symptoms until later on in life, when they develop severe liver issues. At that point, symptoms such as jaundice and a swollen abdomen occur. There are antiviral medications for those that acquire the chronic version of the disease.
Hepatitis C is spread through the blood and those that acquire the disease typically develop the chronic version of it. This version is primarily transmitted through intravenous needles, which makes it more common in heroin and opioid addicts. And, unfortunately, according to the CDC, there are somewhere between 2.5 and 4 million people in the United States with the disease.
There is no vaccine on the market for hepatitis C. However, it can be prevented by using a condom during sex, by making sure your tattoo artist uses a clean needle, and by not sharing needles when using drugs.
Unfortunately, people who have the disease will not experience symptoms. If you happen to have the acute version, you may experience a little bit of joint pain or fatigue. On the other hand, if you happen to have the chronic version, you probably won’t experience symptoms until the disease has seriously progressed. At that point, symptoms such as dark bruises and severe liver damage may arise. As for treatment, antiviral medications are the only thing that can help acute and chronic hepatitis C forms.
The only way people can be infected with hepatitis D is if they’ve been infected with hepatitis B. This can happen in one of two ways:
- Both types can be contracted at the same time through blood or bodily fluids
- A person can have hepatitis B first and then be infected with hepatitis D later on
Just like other types of the virus, hepatitis D can be either acute or chronic.
Though hepatitis D is less common than other forms, the CDC still recommends that we look out for symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and dark urine. Symptoms typically don’t show up until liver damage has already ensued, and the only way to avoid getting this form is by getting the hepatitis B vaccine at a young age.
The only treatment is through a medication known as interferons. Interferons boost the person’s immune system, but they do not help cure the patient.
Hepatitis E is generally contracted in developing nations, where people drink contaminated water. There is no prevention for this type and there are minimal symptoms.
By Jenny Lyn