Hepatitis can be alarming: seek treatment and get vaccinations

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body and has many important metabolic functions. It changes the nutrients in our food into substances that the body can use. It stores these substances, supplies cells with them when needed, and converts them into harmless substances or makes sure they are released from the body. There are however, viruses, diseases, and lifestyle habits that can cause the liver to malfunction or become diseased. The most common  cause of liver problems is hepatitis. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be “self-limiting” or can progress into Fibrosis “scarring” of the Liver, Cirrhosis of the Liver or liver cancer. The most common cause of Hepatitis infection is from the virus itself; however, other infections, toxic substances, e.g., alcohol, certain prescription drugs, and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.

  • Hepatitis A Virus (HAV): Hepatitis A is caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and typically passed from one person to another through the feces of an infected person. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV. People infected by HAV eventually make a full recovery and remain immune from further HAV infection. Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with HAV. Vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV): Hepatitis B is passed from person to person through exposure to infected body fluids. Infected mothers have been known to transmit the virus to an infant during birth. Transmission may also occur through a transfusion of contaminated blood, or contaminated needles through drug use. Most people infected with Hepatitis B as adults recover but the virus remains dormant in the body. Vaccines are available to prevent HBV but there is no cure if you have it. For those that are infected, taking certain precautions can help prevent spreading HBV to others.
  • Hepatitis C Virus (HCV): Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted through exposure to infected blood. This may happen through transfusions of contaminated blood, or contaminated needles through drug use. Sexual transmission is also possible but is much less common. There is no vaccine or cure for HCV. Some people clear HCV from their bodies after the acute phase, an outcome known as Spontaneous Viral Clearance.
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis: Alcoholic Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by drinking alcohol and is most likely to occur in people who drink heavily over many years. The relationship between drinking and Alcoholic Hepatitis is complex – not all heavy drinkers develop Alcoholic Hepatitis, and the disease can occur in people who drink only moderately.
  • Hepatitis D Virus (HDV): Hepatitis D occurs only in people who are already infected with Hepatitis B. These individuals have a dual infection of HDV and HBV which can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome. Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis D, but it can be prevented if you are not infected by Hepatitis B and get the HBV vaccination.
  • Hepatitis E Virus (HEV): Hepatitis E is a self-limiting virus but may develop into Fulminant Hepatitis (acute liver failure). The virus is transmitted through a fecal-oral route, principally from contaminated water. HEV is found worldwide, but the highest concentration of cases is in East and South Asia. Vaccines are available to prevent HEV; however, it is currently only available in China.
  • Autoimmune Hepatitis: The immune system normally makes antibodies to attack bacteria, viruses and other germs. In people with autoimmune diseases, the immune system makes antibodies against part(s) of the body. Something triggers the immune system to make these auto-antibodies but the trigger is not known. In autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system makes antibodies against liver cells, which can lead to damage and Cirrhosis.

Hepatitis Symptoms

The symptoms for all hepatitis viruses are very similar.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Hepatitis C: Every chronic Hepatitis C infection starts with an acute phase. Acute Hepatitis C usually goes undiagnosed because it rarely causes symptoms. Acute Hepatitis C does not always become Chronic.
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis: In addition to the standard symptoms listed above, Alcoholic Hepatitis causes fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), confusion and behavior changes, a buildup of toxins normally broken down and eliminated by the liver, and kidney/liver failure
  • Hepatitis E: HEV symptoms include a slightly enlarged, tender liver (hepatomegaly).

Diagnosing Hepatitis

If you suspect that you have one of the hepatitis viruses, Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin Parikh, Dr. Long B. Nguyen, and providers Tammi D’Elena, PA-C; and Vanessa T. Dang, MSN, APRN; can perform a series of Hepatitis Virus Panel blood tests to detect current or past infection of Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C. These tests can detect each of the different hepatitis viruses and screen blood samples for more than one kind of hepatitis virus at the same time.

Treatment

The only way to know which type of Hepatitis virus needs to be treated is through testing. Once the virus has been identified, Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin Parikh, or Dr. Long B. Nguyen, will prescribe a treatment plan.


Board certified physicians Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin Parikh, Dr. Long B. Nguyen, and providers Tammi D’Elena, PA-C; and Vanessa T. Dang, MSN, APRN; care for patients in the north Atlanta, GA; area including Johns Creek, GA; Cumming, GA; Lawrenceville, GA; and Alpharetta, GA. The In-House Endoscopy Suite at Digestive Care Physicians is a certified facility which has achieved the highest level of accreditation by the  Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). If you suffer from any form of hepatitis or suspect that you have new symptoms, contact us at (770) 227-2222 to schedule an appointment. Some forms of hepatitis can critically damage your health.