(RxWiki News) The liver is the largest organ in the body, so any injury or damage to it can be dangerous. And hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
Here’s everything you need to know about hepatitis.
Why is the liver important?
The liver helps the body remove toxins, digest food and keep energy.
What causes hepatitis?
Hepatitis is often caused by viruses. These include hepatitis A, B and C:
- Hepatitis A: This type of virus is spread when you come in contact with an infected person’s stool. This can happen if you eat food that was made by an infected person who did not wash their hands after using the bathroom. This type of hepatitis can also occur if you drink untreated water or eat food that was washed in untreated water.
- Hepatitis B: This virus is spread if you come in contact with blood, semen or other bodily fluids of someone who is infected. It can be passed from a mother to her baby during birth and can spread through unprotected sex.
- Hepatitis C: This occurs when you come in contact with the blood of someone who has hepatitis C. This can happen by sharing drug needles with someone who has hepatitis C, getting an accidental needle prick from a needle that was used on someone with hepatitis C, and getting a tattoo or piercing with tools that were not sterilized after being used on someone who had hepatitis C. Having unprotected sex with someone with hepatitis C is another way of contact.
Other causes of hepatitis include drug or alcohol use.
What are the symptoms?
- Hepatitis A: Most will not experience any symptoms. However, some people experience flu-like symptoms.
- Hepatitis B: This is the same as hepatitis A; you may not have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may feel like you have the flu.
- Hepatitis C: Most will not have symptoms. However, acute hepatitis C may lead to you feeling very tired, fever, nausea and/or vomiting and stomach pain.
With certain types of hepatitis viruses, you may experience jaundice. This is marked by the yellowing of skin and eyes, as well as dark-colored urine.
Which type of hepatitis requires treatment?
Although hepatitis A usually gets better in a few weeks without treatment, your doctor may prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms in some cases.
Treatment is required for hepatitis C, and some people may need treatment for hepatitis B.
If hepatitis B and C are not treated and last a long time (chronic), they can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure or liver cancer.
How can I protect myself?
You can protect yourself through good hygiene. This means always washing your hands before preparing food, after using the bathroom and after changing a diaper. If you will be traveling out of the country, be cautious about drinking tap water. A vaccine can also provide protection.
To protect yourself from hepatitis A and hepatitis B, ask your local pharmacist about the vaccine schedule and whether these vaccines are an option for you.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to protect you from hepatitis C. You can protect yourself by doing the following:
- Never share drug needles.
- If you are in contact with another person’s blood or open sores, always wear protective gear like gloves.
- If you will be getting a tattoo or piercing, make sure sterile tools and unopened ink are used.
- Never share personal items like toothbrushes, razors or even nail clippers.
- Use protection when having sex.
Ask your local pharmacist any questions you have about hepatitis.
Written by Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS