What is Hepatitis? The word “hepatitis” just means inflammation of the liver, and it can be caused by a number of things: heavy alcohol consumption, certain medications and other conditions, but the most common type is viral hepatitis. There are three main kinds of viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, and C), and their causes, prognosis and treatment vary.
Symptoms for all three include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Grey stool
- Darker urine
What Causes Viral Hepatitis?
Hepatitis A is spread through ingestion of fecal matter (even on a microscopic level), so this type is more common in places with poor sanitation standards and practices. Hepatitis B is spread through certain body fluids (semen, blood, etc.), which can happen via sexual intercourse with a hepatitis B carrier and sharing needles and personal hygiene products such as razors. Hepatitis C is spread through blood, which can happen through sharing needles or blood transfusions and organ transplants that took place before 1992 (this is when widespread screening for the virus eliminated infected blood from the supply). Hepatitis B and C can also be spread from mother to baby during birth, but this is much rarer with type C.
How Can Viral Hepatitis be Prevented?
There are vaccines for types A and B, but not for C. These vaccines can be administered to children as young as 1 for type A and at birth for type B. According to the CDC, getting vaccinated for these infections is especially important for those who use certain drugs, those with certain diseases like chronic liver disease, those who travel a lot, and those with multiple sex partners. Getting tested for hepatitis is important because most people who are infected do not show symptoms for a long time and can easily pass the infections to others without knowing it. Other ways to prevent hepatitis are to avoid dirty food or water, always wash your hands after going to the bathroom, don’t share needles, know beforehand if any of your sexual partners are carriers, use condoms, if you get a tattoo or piercing make sure you go to a shop that you trust is clean and doesn’t reuse needles, and don’t share personal hygiene items like razors with others.
The doctors here at Mt. Auburn OBGYN are here to answer any questions you might have about hepatitis. You can also learn about preventing other infections on our blog. Feel free to call us to make an appointment if you are worried you might be infected or even if you just want more info on hepatitis.