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Understanding the Different Types of Hepatitis and Your Risks

Your liver does more than break down the nutrients in the foods and beverages you ingest. It also filters toxins out of your blood, synthesizes proteins, stores glycogen, vitamins, and minerals, and metabolizes medications, vitamins, and nutritional supplements.

Hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, impairs your liver’s ability to function. At the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, specializes in accurately diagnosing and treating different types of hepatitis.

Learn what you need to know about the different types of viral hepatitis, whether you’re at risk, and the treatments available.  

Understanding hepatitis A

When you come in contact with the fecal matter of an infected person, either directly or through contaminated food or water, you can contract hepatitis A. While in children the virus typically produces only mild symptoms, adults tend to experience more severe symptoms that can last up to six weeks, including:

Symptoms of hepatitis A begin 2-7 weeks after infection.

Understanding your risk

While anyone can contract hepatitis A, men who engage in sexual intercourse with other men, recreational drug users, people who are homeless, and people with a history of liver disease or clotting-factor disorders have an increased risk of contracting the virus. 

You can reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis A by getting the vaccine, washing your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food, and always practicing good bathroom hygiene. 

Understanding hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is also caused by a virus, however, it most often spreads through infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. It is not spread through infected or contaminated food or water. You can develop either acute (short-term) or chronic hepatitis B and a blood test is required for diagnosis. 

Acute hepatitis B develops within six months of exposure to the virus. It may cause no symptoms, mild symptoms, or be serious enough to require hospitalization. The symptoms of acute hepatitis B are the same as those for hepatitis A but appear 3-6 months after exposure. 

Chronic hepatitis B, on the other hand, may not cause symptoms for many years — if at all. When they do appear, symptoms are similar to those for acute hepatitis. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can cause serious liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. 

Understanding your risk

Your risk of contracting hepatitis B increases if you share needles or otherwise have direct contact with infected fluids contaminated by someone with the virus (e.g., unprotected sexual intercourse). 

Reduce your risk of getting hepatitis B by getting vaccinated, not sharing needles or other personal items (e.g., razors), verifying acupuncture and tattoo needles are sterile and using condoms.  

Understanding hepatitis C

Hepatitis C spreads through contaminated blood or blood particles, usually through shared needles or accidental needle sticks in a healthcare setting. The disease may be acute or chronic, and the acute form of hepatitis C usually causes chronic hepatitis C.  

Symptoms of acute hepatitis C are the same as hepatitis A but typically appear 6-9 weeks after exposure. However, less than 30% of those infected develop acute symptoms. Instead, most people remain asymptomatic until the chronic form of the virus causes liver complications, making screenings essential. 

Understanding your risk

You have an increased risk of getting hepatitis C if you have injected drugs, been in contact with infected blood or needles, have tattoos or body piercings, have HIV/AIDS, are a man who has had sexual intercourse with men, or have lived or worked in prison. 

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. You can reduce your risk by not sharing needles or other personal items that may be contaminated (e.g., razors), verifying tattoo artists and acupuncturists use sterilized tools, not engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse, and wearing gloves when touching another person’s blood or open wounds/sores. 

Treating hepatitis

If you have any symptoms of hepatitis, schedule an exam with Dr. Rivas for an accurate diagnosis. Effective treatment for hepatitis depends on which type you have. Some acute types of hepatitis only require rest, hydration, and proper nutrition to ensure you make a full recovery.

Other types of hepatitis may require taking antiviral medications for several months (sometimes years) with regular medical check-ins. If you develop advanced liver disease or cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be required. 

Learn more about hepatitis and the treatments available by contacting the team at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida. Make an appointment by calling us at 954-228-5882 or book online now.

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