What You Need to Know About Hepatitis
You’ve probably heard of hepatitis at some point, and you may know there are several types—A, B, C, D, and so forth. But if you’re like most people, the causes, symptoms, and preventive methods for all these variations of hepatitis are probably a little unclear. To help eliminate some confusion, let’s take a closer look at hepatitis and what facts you should know about this surprisingly common disease.
What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver—the football-shaped organ above the right side of the abdomen that filters blood, processes nutrients, and helps battle infections. Several factors can contribute to hepatitis—including excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to toxins, and certain medications and medical conditions—but viruses are the most common cause of this condition.
Symptoms of hepatitis can vary slightly by type, but general signs of liver inflammation include:
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale-colored stool
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Yellowish eyes or skin
- Weight loss
Types of Hepatitis
There are five types of hepatitis:
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that can last for a few weeks or a few months. It occurs when a microscopic amount of fecal matter enters the body, sometimes through food or sharing certain items. High-risk populations include:
- People experiencing homelessness
- Drug users
- International travelers
- Men who have sex with other men
A vaccine is available and advised for at-risk groups as well as children between the ages of one and two.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection and a leading cause of liver cancer. The hepatitis B virus is found in blood, semen, and other bodily fluids, and may be spread through:
- Sex with an infected person
- Childbirth from an infected mother
- Sharing personal items and medical equipment, such as toothbrushes or needles
Vaccines are available to help prevent hepatitis B. The infection can range from a mild illness that lingers for a few weeks to a chronic condition that may lead to cancer or cirrhosis.
An estimated 2.4 million Americans live with hepatitis C, many unknowingly. Some cases are mild and clear up after a few weeks, but most turn into chronic, lifelong infections. Hepatitis C is spread through blood—often by sharing personal equipment or from mother to baby during childbirth—and may result in liver cancer or the need for liver transplantation. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but a regimen of oral medication can resolve many chronic infections.
A hepatitis D infection can occur in people who also have hepatitis B. It spreads when the blood or bodily fluid of an infected person enters the body of another. Some cases of hepatitis D are mild, while others are chronic and can lead to severe liver damage. Receiving a hepatitis B vaccine also helps prevent hepatitis D.
The hepatitis E virus is found in stool and is typically spread through contaminated water or food. Hepatitis E is not common in developed countries like the United States, and it usually resolves on its own without medical treatment.
Receive a Hepatitis Vaccine at PhysicianOne Urgent Care
PhysicianOne Urgent Care’s fully equipped and physician-led locations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York offer vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. To learn more information about hepatitis vaccines and if they’re right for you, stop by one of our centers today or connect with us online.