Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The liver is the largest organ inside your body and is responsible for helping digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. Although hepatitis may occur due to drug or alcohol use, or even certain medical conditions in which the body attacks healthy liver cells, the most common cause is one three possible contagious viruses: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

 

  • Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease of the liver. It does not result in chronic infection and rarely leads to liver damage, but usually resolves without treatment within 2 months of infection. Antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection.
  • Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease of the liver. If infected as an adult, the body tends to fight it off within a few months, often resulting in permanent immunity. If hepatitis B is contracted as a child, it is more likely to become chronic. Chronic hepatitis B can cause liver cancer, liver failure, or liver scarring. It can be fatal if it isn’t treated.
  • Hepatitis C, like B, is usually not treated unless it becomes chronic. If the chronic disease goes untreated for many years, it can damage your liver. It can also lead to liver cancer, liver failure, or liver scarring. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Sometimes there are no symptoms of hepatitis in the first weeks after infection. When they do occur, they may include:  

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements
  • Stomach pain
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)

How is hepatitis diagnosed?

  • Hepatitis A: Blood tests
  • Hepatitis B: Blood tests, or a liver biopsy if chronic hepatitis B is suspected
  • Hepatitis C: Blood tests, or a liver biopsy if chronic hepatitis C is suspected

How is hepatitis treated?

Depending upon the results of your blood test, your doctor will determine the best treatment for you.

  • Hepatitis A usually gets better in a few weeks without treatment.
  • Hepatitis B, when chronic, may be treated with injected medication or oral medication.
  • Hepatitis C, when chronic, requires a combination of injected and oral medication. This is a form of chemotherapy.

For those whose hepatitis progresses to liver failure and who fail to respond to treatment or cannot tolerate treatment, a liver transplant may be needed.

If you have concerns about hepatitis, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.