Four Things You Should Know About Viral Hepatitis:
Each type of hepatitis is caused by a different virus and spread in different ways. Hepatitis A does not cause a long-term infection, although it can make people very sick. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections and lead to serious health problems.
Chronic hepatitis B and C can cause serious damage to the liver, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. In fact, more than 60 percent of liver cancer cases are related to hepatitis B or C.
More than four million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis in the United States, but most do not know they are infected. Many people live with chronic hepatitis for decades without symptoms or feeling sick.
Lifesaving treatments are available for chronic hepatitis B and new treatments are available that can cure hepatitis C Still, getting tested is the only way to know if you are infected. Take CDC’s Hepatitis Risk Assessment to see if you should be tested for viral hepatitis.
This type won't lead to long-term infection and usually doesn't cause any complications. Your liver heals in about 2 months. You can prevent it with a vaccine.
Most people recover from this type in 6 months. Sometimes, though, it causes a long-term infection that could lead to liver damage. Once you've got the disease, you can spread the virus even if you don't feel sick. You won't catch it if you get a vaccine.
Many people with this type don't have any symptoms. About 80% of those with the disease get a long-term infection. It can sometimes lead to cirrhosis, a scarring of the liver. There's no vaccine to prevent it.
How Do You Get Hepatitis A?
You get it from eating or drinking something that's got the virus in it.
How Do You Get Hepatitis B?
You can get it if you:
How Do You Get Hepatitis C?
Just like hepatitis B, you can get this type by sharing needles and having contact with infected blood. You can also catch it by having sex with somebody who's infected, but that's less common.
If you had a blood transfusion before new screening protocols were put in place in 1992, you are at risk for hepatitis C. If not, the blood used in transfusions today is safe. It gets checked beforehand to make sure it's free of the virus that causes hepatitis B or C.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?
The most common symptoms for all three types are:
If you have hepatitis B, you may also have achy joints.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms.
Can Hepatitis Be Treated?
If you have hepatitis A, your doctor will carefully see how well your liver is working, but there aren't any treatments to cure it.
There are several drugs that treat long-term hepatitis B, such as:
For hepatitis C, some people improve if they get a combo of the drugs peginterferon alpha and ribavirin. But there are side effects to this treatment, including severe anemia (low red blood cells) and birth defects.
Your doctor may also suggest other drugs for hepatitis C, which cure more people and may be better tolerated, including: