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July 21, 2019

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Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center

Things you really don’t know about hepatitis

HCA native Hepatitis

Most people are familiar with hepatitis by name, but there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the condition itself.

“Hepatitis describes an inflammation of the liver and is the name of a series of viral diseases — A, B, C, D and E,” said Dr. Shirin Rahman of Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

While each type of hepatitis is caused by a different virus, has varying modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently, they all typically present similar symptoms.

Symptoms for all strains

• Weakness and fatigue

• Nausea and vomiting

• Abdominal pain (especially in the liver area, which is on the right side beneath your lower ribs)

• Fever

• Loss of appetite

• Dark urine

• Joint pain

• Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)

What is the prognosis?

Hepatitis can be acute (lasting six months or less) or chronic (lasting the patient’s lifetime). Acute hepatitis usually does not cause lasting liver damage, but chronic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, liver failure and other complications.

Hepatitis A

Symptom onset: Symptoms typically don’t present for two to four weeks, if at all.

How it is transmitted:

• Contaminated food or food handled by someone with the virus who did not thoroughly wash his or her hands

• Drinking contaminated water

• Eating raw shellfish from sewage-polluted water

• Being in close contact with someone who has the virus

Vaccine: Yes

Treatment: Can be managed with antiviral medication if needed

Outcome: Hepatitis A usually is acute and clears up on its own in six months or less. If it becomes chronic, it typically does not cause lasting damage to the liver, but it can be spread to other people.

Hepatitis B

Symptom onset: Symptoms typically present one to four months after exposure, if at all.

How it is transmitted

• Having sex with someone who has the virus (It can be shared through saliva, blood, semen or vaginal fluid).

• Sharing needles

• Accidental needle sticks (a concern for health care workers)

• From mother to child during birth

Vaccine: Yes

Treatment: Can be managed with antiviral medication if needed, especially if medication is administered within 24 hours of exposure. The vaccine can be given immediately at birth to infants born to mothers who have the virus.

Outcome: Most people who contract hepatitis B as adults have an acute reaction and recover fully. People who contract it during childhood, especially before age 5, typically develop chronic hepatitis.

Hepatitis C

Symptom onset: Acute infections can occur during the first six months of exposure, but 75 to 85 percent of acute infections develop into chronic infections. Ongoing chronic infections can go undetected for decades without presenting symptoms, then suddenly cause serious liver damage or disease.

There can be additional symptoms specific to this strain.

It is uncommon for hepatitis C to present symptoms during the acute stage, but liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis C can cause the following symptoms:

• Bleeding and bruising easily

• Itchy skin

• Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen)

• Leg swelling

• Weight loss

• Hepatic encephalopathy (confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech)

• Spider-like blood vessels

How it is transmitted

• Sharing needles

• Accidental needle sticks (a concern for health care workers)

• From mother to child during birth

• Unsanitized tattoos or piercings

• Sharing personal care items that could come in contact with another person’s blood (razors or toothbrushes)

• Research still is being done to determine whether hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual contact, and if so, how often that occurs.

Vaccine: No

Treatment: Can be managed with antiviral medication if needed

Outcome: Patients with chronic hepatitis C have a 60 to 70 percent chance of developing potentially deadly chronic liver disease.

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