What is Viral Hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis is an inflammatory liver condition caused by a viral infection. There are five main types of viral hepatitis, although Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common in the United States.
This is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is most commonly spread through contaminated food or water or from close contact with an individual or object that is infected. However, it usually clears up on its own with no lasting liver damage.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with bodily fluids infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) such as blood, vaginal secretions or semen. This also includes injection drug use, sharing razors with an infected individual or having sex with an infected person. While some individuals experience chronic hepatitis B, meaning that it lasts for more than six months, most adults make a full recovery.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and is transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. It is most commonly spread through injection drug use and sexual contact. This condition can be categorized into two groups: acute and chronic. Acute hepatitis C occurs within the first six months of exposure and may be short-term, while chronic hepatitis C is long-developing and long-lasting.
Hepatitis D and E
Hepatitis D: This is a rare but serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It is spread through direct contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D infections also only occur in those with Hepatitis B. This dual infection can result in more serious disease.
Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is spread by the hepatitis E virus (HEV) and is a waterborne disease. It is usually contracted through drinking from a water supply that is contaminated with fecal matter.
How is Viral Hepatitis Diagnosed?
In order to properly diagnose hepatitis, your doctor will speak with you regarding your health history and symptoms. A physical examination will be done in which your doctor will feel if your liver is enlarged or you are exhibiting signs of jaundice. There are also additional tests that may be recommended such as liver function blood tests, ultrasound or liver biopsy.
Treatment Options for Viral Hepatitis
Treatment for viral hepatitis may look different depending on the specific type of hepatitis. Your doctor will create a personalized treatment plan for you following your diagnosis. Overall, treatment may appear similar to the following:
There is no exact treatment required for hepatitis A since the virus usually clears up on its own. Your doctor may have you rest and manage your nausea while your liver heals.
In cases of acute hepatitis B, treatment may not be needed, as it may go away on its own. However, your doctor may ask you to rest and drink many fluids. For chronic hepatitis B, treatment will be needed for the rest of your life. This may include antiviral medications, interferon injections or a liver transplant.
Hepatitis C is treated with antiviral medications to completely clear the virus from the body. However, for those who have developed serious complications due to chronic hepatitis C, liver transplantation may be required.
Hepatitis D and E
There is currently no antiviral medication available for the treatment of hepatitis D or E. However, hepatitis D may be prevented with the hepatitis B vaccination.
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At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Hepatitis A, B and C (Viral) or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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