Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis Awareness Month

National Hepatitis Awareness Month occurs in May, as declared by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a time to spread information about the various types of this liver-damaging disease, and about why it so important to address them. Ultimately, all forms of hepatitis are inflammatory conditions of the liver. The most common way to get Hepatitis is through viral infection, but other types of hepatitis are the result of an autoimmune disease or a secondary condition following drug or alcohol abuse. Hepatitis is dangerous because the liver is responsible for filtering toxins and allocating nutrients for the body. Too many of these toxins can cause inflammation, which lowers liver performance and can also cause damage to other organs as a result.

Hepatitis A

One of the more acute variations of the virus, hepatitis A, is a short-lived, albeit unpleasant experience. The infection develops when someone consumes food or drinks liquids that have been contaminated by fecal matter that contains the virus. Symptoms for hepatitis A are flu-like and appear quickly. Fatigue, abdominal pain, lack of appetite, muscle aches, dark urine, and jaundice may occur - but not always. In some cases, someone with hepatitis A may also suffer from nausea and vomiting. Although there is no cure for hepatitis A, the symptoms are mild and do not last very long. Doctors treat this illness like the flu by suggesting bed rest and plenty of fluids. To prevent an infection from hepatitis A, always make sure that foods are clean and adequately cook them before consumption. There is also a vaccine that is taken in two doses and can be received by both children and adults.

Hepatitis B & C

Hepatitis B and C are sexually transmitted diseases that transfer through bodily fluids from an infected person. They can also spread through the blood. The risk of acquiring the virus increases when a person either shares a needle or a razor with someone that already has either virus or engages in sexual intercourse. People that become infected with Hepatitis B or C may not notice symptoms at first or not have any at all until the disease has reached a chronic stage. At this point, liver function is damaged and may not be reversible. The symptoms are similar to those of any other form of hepatitis. The difference is that with chronic hepatitis infections, liver cells have been significantly damaged. this results in a higher likelihood for an individual to develop liver diseases such as cirrhosis or liver cancer. Most people with chronic hepatitis B end up living a long and healthy life by monitoring the condition. Doctors will recommend drug therapy and regular checkups to inhibit further liver damage. The best way to prevent these infections by getting the vaccine. Lower the risk of disease by practicing safe sex and not smoking or abusing alcohol, as these are both strenuous for the liver.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is a severe disease that transmits through direct contact with infected blood. Although it is not so common in the United States, hepatitis D requires the presence of the hepatitis B virus for it to spread throughout the liver and bloodstream. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, jaundice, and discoloration in urine and stool. Though these symptoms reduce in severity as the disease progresses, it continues to damage the liver throughout its duration. 60-70% of those infected with chronic hepatitis D will also develop cirrhosis. There is no cure or treatment for hepatitis D, but there is a vaccine for the hepatitis B strain. Since the D strain relies upon hepatitis B to multiply, this vaccine substantially prevents either infection.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is highly uncommon in the United States. A person becomes infected when he or she comes into direct oral contact with feces. Cases of hepatitis E are most often due to contamination of water due to poor sanitation. Symptoms of hepatitis E are similar to those of other strains of the virus and typically go away on their own. In some cases, the infection leads to liver failure. There is no treatment for hepatitis E, but avoid alcohol and medications that may do further damage to the liver.  By executing proper sanitation practices, people can avoid becoming infected. Wash hands thoroughly and refrain from drinking any liquids that seem dirty or contaminated. Hepatitis is a preventable disease that does not require much effort to manage. Avoid infection by getting the Hepatitis vaccine and engaging in proper sanitation standards. For more information about the most common types of Hepatitis in the United States, Hepatitis A, B, and C, visit the CDC Website.

When is Hepatitis an Emergency?

Since Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver, symptoms of liver damage are often medical emergencies. Vomiting blood, black or tarry stools, high fever, uncontrollable shaking, jaundice, confusion, and extreme sleepiness are signs of liver problems and should be treated immediately. Hepatitis A symptoms can occur suddenly and mimic the flu at any time of day or night, with severe vomiting and muscle aches.

If you have symptoms that appear to be an emergency, do not hesitate to come to The Emergency Center right away.  The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit one of The Emergency Center’s convenient 24-hour locations in ArlingtonFort Worth, and San Antonio.