Hepatitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the liver. This inflammation can cause damage to the liver and disrupt the liver’s ability to function properly. Some types of hepatitis can cause chronic or long-term damage, to the liver. This is why it is important to determine the cause of the inflammation and treat it correctly. Below is a summary of the different variations of hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is a short-term infection that is caused by coming into contact with food or water, which has been contaminated by an infected person’s stool. A person usually gets better without treatment and generally does not lead to long-term complications. Because of a vaccine that became available in 1995, hepatitis A is not a common disease in the United States.
Hepatitis B can manifest as a short-term or chronic infection. The virus spreads through coming into contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, or other body fluids. When it is a short-term infection, the symptoms can last between several weeks to 6 months, but generally, the body is able to fight off the infection.
If the body is not able to fight off these infections, this leads to chronic hepatitis B. The chances of developing chronic hepatitis B are higher if the person was infected with the virus as a child. Of those infected with hepatitis B during adulthood, only about 5% develop chronic hepatitis.
Hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact of blood. In the US, the most common way that people get hepatitis C is through injecting drugs. Although it can manifest as a short-term, or acute, infection 75-85 percent of people with acute hepatitis C will develop chronic hepatitis C. If it is not diagnosed and treated early, chronic hepatitis C can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. Antiviral medications attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases.
This infection is unique because to be infected with hepatitis D the person also has to be infected with hepatitis B. Both of these viruses spread by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, or other body fluids. The virus can cause acute or chronic infections or both. Acute hepatitis D can sometimes be fought off by the immune system, but generally, the symptoms are more severe.
There are two types of infections when it comes to hepatitis D, coinfection and superinfection. Coinfection is when the person gets both hepatitis D and B at the same time. Usually, this leads to short-term infection or severe short-term hepatitis. In most cases, a person’s body can fight off the infection. Less than 5% of people cannot and this leads to chronic infections.
Superinfection in when a person has hepatitis B and then becomes infected with hepatitis D. Up to 90% of people with superinfection cannot fight off the viruses and develop both chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis D.
Hepatitis E is a viral infection that can be contracted in two different ways; the most common in the US is through eating undercooks pork or wild game. Recent research suggests that 20% of the US population has hepatitis E. Although most common as a short-term infection, if the person has a weak immune system, it can lead to chronic hepatitis E. Complications to acute, or short-term, hepatitis E is more common in women and people who have other liver diseases.
We also want to encourage those in the priority populations to get tested. Who are these priority populations? The Department of Health and Human Services lists these as:
- Baby boomers
- People who inject drugs
- American Indians/Alaska Natives
- Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- African Americans
- People in correctional facilities
- Pregnant Women
- Homeless individuals
- Men who have sex with men
- Individuals living with HIV and viral hepatitis
Get tested! May 19 is Hepatitis Testing Day!
Do you have questions about hepatitis A-E? Ask us here.
Digestive Health Specialists, PA is here to help if you, or someone you know, would like more information, or if you are experiencing any digestive health symptoms and would like further evaluation. Feel free to give us a call at 336-768-6211 or fill the form below.