Hepatitis A, B & C
- Pages: 4
- Word count: 843
- Category: Disease
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Hepatitis A is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the liver from the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is characterized by the destruction of a number of liver cells and the presence of inflammatory cells in the liver tissue. HAV is found mostly in the stools and blood of an infected person about 15-45 days before symptoms occur and during the first week of illness. You can contract hepatitis A if you eat or drink food or water that has been contaminated by stool (feces) containing the hepatitis A virus (fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water are common sources of the hepatitis A virus.
You can come in contact with the stool or blood of a person who currently has the disease. A person with hepatitis A does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food. You can also contract it if you participate in sexual practices that involve oral-anal contact. A person who has hepatitis A can easily pass the disease to others within the same household. Hepatitis A can cause: “flu-like” illness, jaundice, and severe stomach pains and diarrhea. During a physical examination the doctor might discover that you have an enlarged and tender liver and blood tests may show raised antibodies to hepatitis A and elevated liver enzymes, especially transaminase enzyme levels.
Hepatitis B is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the liver due to infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Most of the damage from the hepatitis B virus occurs because of the way the body responds to the infection. When the body’s immune system detects the infection, it sends out special cells to fight it off. However, these disease-fighting cells can lead to liver inflammation. Hepatitis B infection can spread through having contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and other body fluids of someone who already has a hepatitis B infection.
Infection can be spread through: blood transfusions (not common in the United States), direct contact with blood in health care settings, sexual contact with infected person, tattoo or acupuncture with unclean needles or instruments, shared needles during drug use, shared personal items (such as toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers) with an infected person. The hepatitis B virus can be passed to an infant during childbirth if the mother is infected. Risk factors for hepatitis B infection include: being born, or having parents who were born in regions with high infection rates (including Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean), being infected with HIV, being on hemodialysis, having multiple sex partners, and men having sex with men.
After you first become infected with the hepatitis B virus: you may have no symptoms, feel sick for a period of days or weeks, or become very ill. If your body is able to fight off the hepatitis B infection, any symptoms that you had should go away over a period of weeks to months. Some people’s bodies are not able to completely get rid of the hepatitis B infection. This is called chronic hepatitis B. People with chronic hepatitis may have no symptoms, even though gradual liver damage may be occurring.
Over time, some people may develop symptoms of chronic liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver. There are tests that can be performed in order to identify and monitor liver damage caused by hepatitis B, which are albumin level, liver function tests, and prothrombin time. Acute hepatitis needs no treatment other than careful monitoring of liver and other body functions with blood tests. In the rare case that you develop liver failure, you may need a liver transplant. A liver transplant is the only cure in some cases of liver failure.
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to swelling (inflammation) of the liver. Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). People who may be at risk for hepatitis C are those who: have been on long-term kidney dialysis; have regular contact with blood at work (a healthcare worker); have unprotected sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis C; inject street drugs or share a needle with someone who has hepatitis C; received a blood transfusion before July 1992; received a tattoo or acupuncture with contaminated instruments; received blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor who has hepatitis C; share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors with someone who has hepatitis C; were born to a hepatitis C-infected mother.
Most people who were recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Of people who get infected with hepatitis C, most develop a long-term (chronic) infection. Usually there are no symptoms. If the infection has been present for many years, the liver may be permanently scarred. This is called cirrhosis. In many cases, there may be no symptoms of the disease until cirrhosis has developed. A liver biopsy can be done in order to show how much damage has been done to the liver.