Hepatitis is characterized by liver inflammation and can potentially lead to cirrhosis and liver disease. It is most often caused by a viral infection, according to the World Health Organization.
Types of Hepatitis
There are five types of hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E), with types B and C being the most dangerous.
Hepatitis A is often brought about by consuming contaminated food or water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is typically seen in countries with ineffective sanitation practices.
Hepatitis E is also contracted in a similar way.
Hepatitis B, on the other hand, can spread through contact with bodily fluid. This includes blood and semen. The virus can spread via sexual contact, sharing needles, childbirth or blood transfusion.
Hepatitis C is similar to type B. But according to the WHO, it is uncommon for hepatitis C to be contracted through sexual contact.
Hepatitis D is a dangerous form of the disease that only occurs in people who already have hepatitis B.
At this point in time, there are vaccines to protect against types A and B. (The WHO reports that China has produced the first vaccine ever to prevent hepatitis E. However, it is not available worldwide.)
Symptoms for Hepatitis
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the most common hepatitis symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes), fatigue, upset stomach, loss of appetite, fever and headaches. Treating hepatitis is determined by which type a person has. If not addressed, some cases can lead to serious (even fatal) liver damage. According to the NIH, most cases of hepatitis A and E resolve on their own with no liver damage. Some cases of hepatitis B also require no treatment. If you know you’ve been exposed to the virus, getting an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours might reduce the risk of becoming infected. In other cases, people need antiviral medications or a liver transplant.