Hepatitis Overview - What You Need to Know: Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that results in liver cell damage and destruction. It may be caused by drugs, alcohol use, or certain medical conditions. In most cases, it is caused by a virus. This is known as viral hepatitis, and the most common forms are hepatitis A, B, and C.
Symptoms may include:
- Poor appetite
- Belly pain
- A mild fever
- Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
By the time there are any warning signs, the liver may already be damaged.
In the United States:
- Hepatitis A rates have declined by 92% since the hepatitis A vaccine first became available in 1995.
- An estimated 800,000 to 2.2 million people have chronic hepatitis B infections.
- An estimated 3.6 million people have chronic hepatitis C infections.
Fortunately, blood tests can determine whether you have viral hepatitis, and if so, which kind.
- (Yes) Hepatitis A
- (Yes) Hepatitis B
- (No) Hepatits C
Hepatitis Overview: A
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can spread from person to person. This type of hepatitis is usually spread by feces that comes in contact with the mouth, or food and water that has been contaminated by feces. It may also be spread by infection that comes from contact with blood, blood-borne infection, and sexual contact with an infected person. It typically causes only a mild illness, and many people who are infected may never realize they're sick at all. Hepatitis A almost always goes away on its own, no medication is needed, and does not cause long-term liver damage.
Hepatitis Overview: B
Transmission of hepatitis B virus happens through body fluid exposure, such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or saliva. Mother-to-baby transmission is the main way babies get hepatitis B. Infants are highly likely to develop the disease if they are born to a mother who has the virus and if they are not vaccinated within 24 hours of birth. Hepatitis B is treatable. It is controllable, but not curable. Many adults who get hepatitis B have mild symptoms for a short time and then get better on their own. Some people are not able to clear the virus from the body, which causes a long-term infection. Over time, hepatitis B can lead to serious problems, such as liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer.
Overview of Hepatitis: C
Transmission of hepatitis C happens primarily from contact with infected blood, sexual contact, or from an infected mother to her baby. The symptoms of hepatitis C are usually mild and gradual initially, though it leads to chronic liver disease in a majority of people who are infected. It is also the number one cause of liver cancer in the United States. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. There are effective treatments for the virus, though.