A look at the different types of hepatitis
Many people may underestimate the power of the liver. It helps to process nutrients and metabolizes medication. It also works to rid the body of toxic waste. However, when the liver is ill, it can't perform these crucial processes as well as it's supposed to.
Hepatitis is a liver disease. When translated, "hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by many things, including toxins and bacterial infections. There are many different forms of hepatitis, but the three most common are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Types of hepatitis
Hepatitis A is a virus of the liver that is transmitted through the feces of infected people. It is most readily contracted by consuming food or drinking water that has come in contact with infected feces. This may sound highly unpleasant, but hepatitis A is one of the least destructive hepatitis viruses, as it hardly ever causes permanent liver damage. The virus usually disappears after a few weeks, and after that, the person will be immune to the virus.
Hepatitis B is a more severe form of the hepatitis virus, as it can eventually lead to a condition known as cirrhosis – permanent liver scarring – or to liver cancer. It is transmitted through the blood or other bodily fluids of infected individuals. In the United States, hepatitis B is most commonly spread through unprotected sex. People who inject drugs are also at risk for the disease. Currently, there is no cure for hepatitis B. Individuals who contract the virus may recover and become immune, or they may have the condition forever.
Hepatitis C is the most serious form of hepatitis. Like hepatitis B, it can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer and is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. Hepatitis C is the leading reason for liver transplants in the U.S. There is no vaccine or cure for the disease.
Signs and symptoms
The problem with hepatitis is that an infected person may or may not show symptoms right away. That's why hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing is recommended if you are at all concerned. Common symptoms include:
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark-colored urine
- Light-colored bowel movements
Diagnosis and treatment
A blood test is typically required to diagnose hepatitis. People with hepatitis A usually recover without medication, through proper rest. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are sometimes treated with medications. Treatments are becoming more effective but are not a cure.
Protecting your children
There are a number of ways that your children can protect themselves from contracting hepatitis:
- Vaccines – Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines are available to prevent these forms of the disease. Vaccines can be administered by a family physician or are often available through schools.
- Protection – Avoid drug use and unprotected sex. Also, when getting a tattoo or piercing, make sure that the needles have been properly sterilized.
Education and vigilance are the best methods of prevention, so talk to your children about hepatitis and other child health risks early and often.