Hepatitis is a dangerous virus that causes the liver to swell, which prevents it from working properly. This can lead to scarring or even cancer. Your liver is essential for life, as it aids in digestion, energy storage, and acts as a filter to remove toxins from the body. It is estimated that 5 million Americans have been infected with Hepatitis C, and that 75% of them are unaware that they are even at risk. All three kinds of hepatitis (A, B & C) are contagious, so it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible to avoid spreading the virus.
Hepatitis A: Eating or drinking something contaminated with fecal matter; like food handled by someone with the virus who doesn't thoroughly wash his or her hands after using the toilet, drinking contaminated water, eating raw shellfish from water polluted with sewage, sex with someone who has the virus.
Hepatitis B: Sexual contact, sharing of needles, accidental needle sticks, and Mother to child. The virus is passed through blood, semen or other body fluids, and does not spread by sneezing or coughing.
Hepatitis C: HIV, injection of illicit drugs, exposure to infected blood, piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment, have received hemodialysis treatments over a long period of time, received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection.
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever and fatigue
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements
- Jaundice, yellowing of skin and eyes
Hepatitis A: In most cases no specific treatment is needed. It is recommended that you rest and avoid alcohol and other medications where possible. Your body will clear the hepatitis A virus on its own, and in most cases the liver heals within about six months.
Hepatitis B: If you are diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, you may need treatment for the rest of your life. These treatments can range from antiviral medications or Interferon injections, all the way to a liver transplant.
Hepatitis C: The infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body.
Because medications and treatment regimens continue to change rapidly, be sure to discuss your treatment options with an AGA specialist.