What you should know about hepatitis infections

What you should know about hepatitis infections

Recent research has shown that hepatitis infection rates are increasing worldwide.

The deaths from viral hepatitis grow every year, and the disease remains one of the most common infections in the world.

Anna Lok, M.D., a Michigan Medicine hepatologist, provides important information about the risks, symptoms, and treatment of viral hepatitis.

The viral hepatitis types include A, B, C, D and E, and chronic hepatitis can be life-threatening.

According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis B and C alone affect about 325 million people worldwide.

The hepatitis B vaccinations are usually used in newborns, children, and adolescents.

Very few adults have been vaccinated and fewer than 25% of adults in the United States have immunity to the hepatitis B virus.

Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis include fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, and upper right abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are easily ignored.

Acute hepatitis can cause severe illness and sometimes may contribute to acute liver failure and death.

Chronic hepatitis usually lasts longer than six months and often displays no symptoms at early stages. The most common symptom is fatigue.

Chronic hepatitis can cause cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

There are different treatment options for different types of hepatitis.

Hepatitis A does not progress to a chronic illness.

Most patients recover naturally. Only a small number of older adults, can develop acute liver failure and die. Vaccination can prevent hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B can grow and become a chronic illness.

Oral anti-viral drugs can suppress the condition, but current drugs are not curative. Patients often need treatment long term.

The drug interferon is sometimes used to treat hepatitis B, but some patients may experience a long-lasting response. Vaccination can prevent hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C can become a chronic illness.

It can be cured in about 95% of patients via oral direct-acting anti-viral drugs.

But there are lower rates of cure for patients diagnosed late with advanced cirrhosis. There is no vaccination for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis D also can progress to a chronic illness.

It occurs only in the presence of hepatitis B. Vaccination against hepatitis B can prevent hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E usually does not progress to a chronic illness.

There is a vaccine for hepatitis E in some countries but not in the United States.

The researcher also provides tips for hepatitis testing and prevention.

A simple blood enzyme test can confirm a liver injury. The most common tests include the aspartate aminotransferase (AST) test and the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test.

A blood sample also can help identify the cause of hepatitis.

For people who don’t have hepatitis, it is important to get vaccinated because prevention is always better than the cure.

Good lifestyle habits, such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly, can also help prevent hepatitis.

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