What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. It’s commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.
The liver is located on the right upper quadrant of your abdomen. It performs many critical functions that affect metabolism throughout your body, including:
bile production that’s essential to digestion
filtering of toxins from the body
excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs
metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
activation of enzymes, which are specialized proteins essential to metabolic functions
storage of glycogen, minerals, and vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin
synthesis of clotting factors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 4.4 million Americans currently living with chronic hepatitis. Many more people don’t even know that they have it.
Viral infections of the liver that are classified as hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A is a milder version of the disease, and hepatitis C and D are more severe. Treatment options vary depending on what form of hepatitis you have and what caused the infection. You can prevent some forms of hepatitis through immunizations or lifestyle precautions.
The 5 Types of Viral Hepatitis
This type derives from an infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This type of hepatitis is most commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with hepatitis A.
This type derives from an infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This type is transmitted through puncture wounds or contact with infectious body fluids, such as blood, saliva, or semen. Injection drug use, having sex with an infected partner, or sharing razors with an infected person increase your risk of getting hepatitis B. It’s estimated by the CDC that 1.25 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis B and 350 million people worldwide live with this chronic disease.
This type comes from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact. HCV is among the most common blood-borne viral infections in the United States. Approximately 2.7 million Americans are currently living with a chronic form of this infection.
This is also called delta hepatitis. Hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). HDV is contracted through puncture wounds or contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D is a rare form of hepatitis that occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection. It’s very uncommon in the United States.
Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis E is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and is typically caused by ingesting fecal matter. This disease is uncommon in the United States. However, cases of hepatitis E have been reported in the Middle East, Asia, Central America, and Africa, reports the CDC.
Hepatitis A and E are normally contracted from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Hepatitis B, C, and D are contracted through contaminated blood. These forms of hepatitis can be either acute or chronic. Types B and C usually become chronic.
Causes of Nonviral Hepatitis
Hepatitis can be caused by liver damage from excessive alcohol consumption. This is sometimes referred to as alcoholic hepatitis. The alcohol causes the liver to swell and become inflamed. Other toxic causes include overuse of medication or exposure to poisons.
The immune system may mistake the liver as a harmful object and begin to attack it, hindering liver function.
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis
If you have forms of hepatitis that are usually chronic (hepatitis B and C), you may not have symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms may not occur until liver damage occurs.
Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:
loss of appetite
unexplained weight loss
yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice
Since chronic hepatitis develops slowly, these signs and symptoms may be too subtle to notice.
How Is Hepatitis Treated?
Treatment options are determined by which type of hepatitis you have and whether the infection is acute or chronic
The most common medications are:
Moderiba™ Dose Pack
Ribasphere® Dose Pak
Ribapak® Dose Pak