If you've recently discovered that you have hepatitis A, B, or C, you may be experiencing many feelings. You might feel overwhelmed, shocked, and unsure about the full meaning of the diagnosis or about the effects it will have on your life. Fortunately, there is helpful information and treatment that can allow you to live a healthy and happy life after your hepatitis diagnosis.
Closer Look at Your Hepatitis Diagnosis
There are three types of hepatitis - Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Each type has a different transmission method, treatment protocol, and long-term prognosis. So before you determine which treatments and suggestions are right for you, it's helpful to learn more about the type of hepatitis you have.
Hepatitis A is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus can cause inflammation and adversely affect your liver's ability to function correctly. Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted through food or water or through coming into close contact with someone infected.
Most people with hepatitis A will recover completely with no lasting liver damage, and mild cases of hepatitis A don't require any treatment.
You can avoid contracting hepatitis A infection by maintaining good hygiene and washing hands frequently. Additionally, you can choose to receive a hepatitis A vaccine, which would protect you against the virus for at least 30 years.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A
The symptoms and signs of hepatitis don't usually appear until after you've had an infection for a few weeks. They can include:
- Sudden nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
These symptoms may be mild and disappear on their own within a few weeks. However, it is possible to have a more serious hepatitis A infection that could last for months. Hepatitis A treatment includes lots of rest, managing nausea, and avoiding alcohol.
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B (HBV) virus. Most adults who have hepatitis B recover fully, although they may experience some severe symptoms. In some cases, the infection can last for more than six months and develop into chronic or long-lasting hepatitis.
Acute hepatitis B lasts less than six months, and your immune system should clear the infection without any long-term effects.
Chronic hepatitis B lasts more than six months and can increase your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis (a condition that permanently scars the liver).
Hepatitis B is spread from person to person through blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. Common ways of getting infected are through sexual activity, sharing needles, and from mother to child.
There is no cure for chronic hepatitis B, but you can prevent a hepatitis B infection by receiving a hepatitis B vaccine.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Symptoms of hepatitis B can range from mild to severe and usually appear one to four months after being infected. The symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
Treatment for hepatitis B involves receiving an immunoglobulin injection within the first 12 hours of exposure. For acute hepatitis B, your doctor may suggest rest, proper nutrition, or antiviral drugs. For chronic hepatitis B, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications, interferon injections, and a liver transplant.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and damage. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contaminated blood. Many people may not know they have hepatitis C due to a lack of symptoms.
Hepatitis C used to be treated with weekly injections and oral prescriptions. However, nowadays, doctors can cure most chronic hepatitis C infections with oral medication taken for two to six months.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Chronic hepatitis C can go unnoticed for years due to a lack of symptoms. By the time symptoms show up, the virus could seriously damage the liver. Symptoms of hepatitis C include:
- Bleeding and bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Swelling in your legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)
Knowing Your Hepatitis Status
The approach your doctor chooses for the treatment of hepatitis largely depends on the type of hepatitis you have and the duration of your infection. This is why it is vital to know your hepatitis status and receive regular testing, especially if you are in a high-risk group for contracting the virus.
UAB Medical West Wants to Keep You Healthy and Informed
You don't have to be in the dark regarding your hepatitis status or your favored method of treatment. UAB Medical West is here to provide you with the information you need to lead a healthy and happy life. If you'd like to learn about your hepatitis status or would like to know more about treatment options, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment today. Serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, UAB Medical West is here for you from the first visit on!