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What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is most commonly broken down into five types A, B, C, D, and E. The most commonly referred to STD versions of Hepatitis are B and C.
- Hepatitis A A disease which affects the liver, causing it to swell painfully which reduces it's functionality and causes the liver and subsequently other organs to fail.
- Hepatitis B Just like Hepatitis A, is known for impacting the liver. The Hepatitis B virus has also been linked to liver cancer. Left untreated, it's also responsible for Cirrhosis.
- Hepatitis C This is one of the more serious Hepatitis infections. Generally this type of Hepatitis is more likely to cause serious liver damage and ultimately failure.
- Hepatitis D More rare than A, B, or C, Hepatitis D is rarely seen in the United States. It's also extremely damaging to the liver and often leads to cancer, liver failure, and/or Cirrhosis.
- Hepatitis E In keeping with the tradition of the other four, Hepatitis E largely affects the liver, causing it to swell and cutting necessary blood flow, causing it to begin to fail.
How is Hepatitis Transmitted or Spread?
- Hepatitis A - This disease is viral, and is spread mainly by contact with feces, which means any intercourse which involves anal penetration could put a person at risk of infection.
- Hepatitis B Also viral, Hepatitis B is spread through any sharing of bodily fluids including sweat, saliva, blood and semen, which means it can be transmitted via any sexual intercourse including oral. This disease also tends to spread from a mother to an infant.
- Hepatitis C A blood-borne virus, Hepatitis C can be contracted by sharing contaminated sharps such as razors and needles, and also through unprotected sex.
- Hepatitis D Also blood-borne, Hepatitis D is spread through sharing infected needles, and also through unprotected sex.
- Hepatitis E Similar to Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E is transmitted via fecal matter. Therefore any contamination which allows even small particles to touch anything that goes into the mouth or somehow contacts the bloodstream may cause an infection.
All of the variations of Hepatitis tend to attack the body the same way. They cause chronic inflammations of the liver, which begins to kill the tissues as any body part that's constantly swollen will begin to lose blood flow. Once the liver has begun to shut down, other bodily organs such as the kidneys will begin to struggle and also fail. Ultimately this may lead to a complete renal failure, and without a transplant for the liver and kidneys someone with untreated Hepatitis will not survive.
The most common symptom of Hepatitis is pale stools and yellowed skin and eyes. This is most commonly known as Jaundice. What this means is the liver is no longer removing Bilirubin from the bloodstream. Were it functioning properly, the Bilirubin (dead and broken down red blood cells) would be removed by the liver and expelled from the body in stool. That's how excrement gets its dark color. Without that vital function, Bilirubin levels will begin to climb, which can cause irreparable brain damage.
The Symptoms of Hepatitis are the same for men and women.
- Hepatitis A - Fatigue, Nausea, Fever, Jaundice, and stomach pain. It's important to note that in children under six, there may be no visible symptoms.
- Hepatitis B Jaundice, pain in the abdomen, fever, fatigue, very dark urine, rash. In children under five, there tend to be no visible symptoms.
- Hepatitis C Fatigue, more bruising with less trauma, symptoms similar to hemophilia, Jaundice, swollen stomach, and swollen ankles.
- Hepatitis D Joint pain, fatigue, disinterest in food, Jaundice, fever, and abdominal pain.
- Hepatitis E Refusal to eat/disinterest in food, Jaundice, enlarged liver, fever, vomiting. Children are the most commonly infected by Hepatitis E but most never show symptoms.
How to Prevent Hepatitis?
- Hepatitis A Fortunately there is a very readily available vaccine for Hepatitis A. It requires two shots, the second between six months to a year after the first. However, vaccinations should never be relied upon 100% and the next best preventative is getting yourself and your partner tested regularly, and wearing a condom or having your partner wear a condom.
- Hepatitis B Like Hepatitis A, there is a vaccine available for Hepatitis B. It's a set of three, the second given after one month and the third three months after that. Like Hepatitis A, the only other way to prevent infection is to insist on a condom during all intercourse and have regular testing.
- Hepatitis C Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. This means the only way to prevent an infection is to use or insist on a condom at all times, and receive regular STD testing.
- Hepatitis D Like Hepatitis C, there is absolutely no vaccine for Hepatitis D. Therefore it can only be prevented by either abstinence or using a condom during sexual intercourse, as well as regular STD testing.
- Hepatitis E Like C and D, Hepatitis E does not have a vaccine. It's a particular risk for homosexual men, and all intercourse should always be done wearing condoms. Also, any transfers between the rectum and the mouth should be avoided at all costs.
How to Treat or Cure Hepatitis?
- Hepatitis A In most cases, luckily, Hepatitis A will go away on its own after some minor flu-like symptoms. However, should it fail to go away, there is no medicinal cure. Generally Hepatitis A is considered one of the least fatal viral Hepatitis infections and with plenty of rest tends to fade away, leaving behind antibodies that should prevent the disease from reoccurring.
- Hepatitis B Hepatitis B can generally clear up on its own, but if it becomes chronic medications such as interferon can be given via injection, and adefovir can be given orally. Should these medications not help to control the chronic Hepatitis B the symptoms and scarring will worsen, the liver will begin to fail, and a transplant will become necessary.
- Hepatitis C Hepatitis C, like the other two, is often not treated until it becomes chronic which means the inflammation begins to destroy the liver. Peginterferon and Ribavirin are usually both prescribed, the first by injection and the second orally. It takes 24-48 weeks to treat Hepatitis C... to put that into perspective, there are 52 weeks in a year.
- Hepatitis D Some patients may respond to Interferon treatments, but there is absolutely no specific treatment or cure for Hepatitis D, which is what makes it so dangerous. Prevention is 100% key with this infection.
- Hepatitis E Generally, this disease will go away on its own. However, unlike the other four, in which chronic or repeated onsets must occur for there to be serious liver damage, just the single onset of Hepatitis E can cause such severe liver cell destruction that the liver will begin to fail.
What Should I Expect From my Doctor? (Men and Women)
- Hepatitis A The doctor may take a blood sample to diagnose a Hepatitis infection, and test for IgM antibodies. Upon a positive test you may be prescribed bed rest akin to that suggested with an influenza virus. If the symptoms do not go away, and only get worse, your doctor may want to see you again to seek an alternate method of boosting your immune system.
- Hepatitis B Your doctor may take a blood sample, testing for HBsAg - essentially, Hepatitis Antibodies, and Anti-HBc IgM antibodies. Generally testing positive isn't a call for immediate alarm, this infection can be handled by the body and often isn't medicated. However, if symptoms don't clear up, your doctor may want to discuss more aggressive treatment via medications.
- Hepatitis C Your doctor, similar to A and B, may take a blood sample to test for HCV antibodies. If the test comes back positive, another sample may be taken to test the level of liver enzymes. According to medscape.com only 20% of those infected with Hepatitis C will get better on their own, for most others it will become chronic which begins to harm the liver. Most doctors may biopsy the liver to get a baseline for how damaged it is. If the damage is severe enough, you may be placed on a donor list for a liver transplant.
- Hepatitis D As with all Hepatitis virus infections, your doctor may want a blood test to check for antibodies that will let him or her know what the type is. After that, the doctor might want a biopsy. They will probably discuss available treatment options with you, and together you can decide which you feel is the most viable.
- Hepatitis E Generally, this type of Hepatitis is never tested for right off, unless you're returning from a less industrialized country. The initial infection of Hepatitis E which is then sexually transmittable is usually through water contaminated by fecal matter, which is uncommon in countries where sanitation is made a priority. However, if your Antibodies come back negative on the other four you may want to request a blood test for this one to rule out the disease. Your doctor may draw blood, and send it to the lab for testing. If you do come back with Hepatitis E antibodies you and your doctor may need to discuss your next move. There is currently no treatment for Hepatitis E, and it's likely that your doctor may want to get a liver biopsy to watch for damage.
CDC-INFO Contact Center
CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN)
P.O. Box 6003
Rockville, MD 20849-6003
American Social Health Association (ASHA)
P. O. Box 13827
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3827