Hepatitis refers to a group of viral diseases that affect the liver and often cause inflammation and other complications in this organ. There are a variety of different types of hepatitis, and they are classified with different letter designations, such as hepatitis A, B, C, etc. Many who have hepatitis aren’t aware of it.
The different types of hepatitis are identified by the virus that causes them. Hepatitis A, for example, does not cause a chronic infection or liver disease. It is primarily passed from person to person or through contaminated food, and it can be prevented by a vaccination.
Hepatitis B, on the other hand, is much more serious and can lead to long-term problems such as scarring of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and even death. It is transmitted through contact with blood, mucus or other bodily fluids. Hepatitis C is quite similar to hepatitis B. Both diseases often only cause an acute illness rather than a chronic infection.
You can also get hepatitis D or E, which are rarer forms of hepatitis. Hepatitis D is actually a complication of chronic hepatitis B, and only those who already have a hepatitis B infection will get it. Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A in that it doesn’t cause a chronic infection, but there is not a vaccine for this form of hepatitis.
Prevention and Treatment
The most common chronic forms of hepatitis, B and C, are passed from person to person through practices such as sharing drug needles, sharing things like razors or toothbrushes or having unsafe sex with an infected person. So it’s important to avoid practices like this to prevent spreading the infection. Immunizations also play a key role in preventing the spread of hepatitis
If you contract a minor form of hepatitis, it will typically go away on its own over time. If it becomes chronic hepatitis, however, there are medications that can help manage the condition and prevent it from getting worse. Chronic hepatitis cannot be cured, but regular use of medications can often prevent complications such as liver damage, liver failure or liver cancer.
SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; World Hepatitis Alliance.
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