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Three Types of Hepatitis and What to Do About Them

Hepatitis describes inflammation of your liver, the most common types being caused by one of several viruses. Hepatitis symptoms can make you sick for the short term or cause long-term, chronic liver problems. 

When you have a form of hepatitis, it affects your liver’s ability to function. If your body can’t clear the virus from your system, you may face long-term liver damage, liver failure, or liver cancer. 

At Digestive Disorders Associates in Annapolis, Maryland, the expert team of board-certified gastroenterologists can help you recover from an acute form of hepatitis or manage your long-term infection. 

Here’s more about the most common forms of viral hepatitis and what you can do to heal.

Why the liver matters 

Your liver is an incredibly important organ that performs critical functions that affect your metabolism. It produces a substance known as bile, which aids in digestion. 

It’s also responsible for:

When your liver is inflamed or starts to fail, it can’t effectively do these or other essential jobs. As a result, you may experience fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and bloody vomit or stools. Liver failure is a medical emergency that requires immediate care.

Three main types of hepatitis

There are several types of hepatitis, including alcoholic hepatitis caused by heavy alcohol use, toxic hepatitis caused by ingesting certain poisons or medicines, and autoimmune hepatitis. But viral versions of hepatitis are the most common. 

Viral hepatitis can be classified as type A, B, C, D, and E – with A, B, and C being the most prevalent in the United States.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus. You usually contract it by coming into contact with water, ice, or food, like unwashed fruit and vegetables or shellfish, that is contaminated with hepatitis A. 

Changing an infected baby’s diaper and not washing your hands afterwards or having sex with a person infected with the hepatitis A virus can also cause you to become infected. 

Hepatitis A is a short-term infection, and your liver heals in about two months. It shouldn’t cause any lasting issues, but there is a vaccine to prevent infection in the first place.

Symptoms of hepatitis A develop two to six weeks following your contact with the virus. You may experience fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting, dark urine and clay-colored stool, and yellowing of your skin or eyes. 

Hepatitis B

You can contract hepatitis B through bodily fluids from a person who has the virus. Bodily fluids include blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. Sexual contact is a major way the virus is transmitted. Sharing razors or needles is another common way the virus is spread. 

Hepatitis B is a chronic condition. Pregnant women can pass hepatitis B to their unborn child. You can prevent hepatitis B with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B causes many of the same symptoms as hepatitis A, and they show up six weeks to six months after contact with the virus, with most people showing symptoms after three months. 

While some people experience only mild symptoms and recover from hepatitis B, others experience long-term infection and liver complications. 

Hepatitis C

This particular form of hepatitis is one of the most common bloodborne viral infections in the United States. Sexual activity, coming into contact with infected blood, or sharing needles with someone who has hepatitis C can cause you to become infected. 

In very rare cases, a pregnant mother passes hepatitis C on to her unborn child. 

Hepatitis C has many of the same symptoms as hepatitis A and B, at first. Usually they show up about 6-7 weeks after infection. In a quarter of infected people, hepatitis C goes away on its own, but in the remaining 75%, hepatitis C lingers and poses the risk of liver damage. 

In any of these cases of viral hepatitis, it’s possible to not have symptoms at all. You’re still able to spread the disease to others, however. 

Treatments for hepatitis

At Digestive Disorders Associates, we can diagnose hepatitis A or B, but usually have to let the disease run its course. We can give you therapies to help you feel as comfortable as possible, but you will feel sick for several months as your immune system goes to work fighting the virus. 

We do offer the vaccine for hepatitis A and B, but currently there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. 

If you have hepatitis C, certain medications are available to treat your liver and prevent long-term deterioration of the organ. You need plenty of rest, hydration, and a well-balanced diet. You need to avoid alcohol and acetaminophen. We review any medications or supplements you take to determine if it’s smart to continue them as you heal. 

Trust us at Digestive Disorders Associates to look out for your digestive and metabolic health. Contact our practice if you suspect you or a loved one has any form of hepatitis. We’ll meet with you to provide a thorough evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Use this website to schedule an appointment or call one of the offices.

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