There are several types of hepatitis, some require little to no treatment while others can leave you with more serious conditions such as cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. In this article, we identify the main types, the effect they have on the body, whether they are curable and how to prevent contracting the disease.
What’s in this article
- The facts
- Types of hepatitis
- Is hepatitis curable?
- How can I prevent hepatitis?
Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus which inflames the liver and can disappear without treatment or progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer. There are three major types of hepatitis: A, B & C. Unlike A and B, a vaccine for hepatitis C is not available. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, in 2009, there were about 16,000 reported cases of acute hepatitis C and approximately 3.2 million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis C.
All strains of the disease can be diagnosed through a blood or tissue sample among other methods. Ensure that you consult your doctor if you suspect you have hepatitis.
Types of hepatitis
There are many types of this disease, however, the following are the most common forms:
Hepatitis A causes acute, but not chronic, inflammation of the liver. Type A is common in individuals who are exposed to communal living (such as shared accommodation) and among travelers. Elderly patients or those with chronic liver disease could experience liver failure because of hepatitis A infection. The disease is transmitted through unsanitary conditions for example contact with contaminated water or food, intravenous drug use, and fecal-oral transmission could lead to hepatitis A contraction.
Hepatitis B causes both acute and chronic inflammation of the liver. On rare occasions, a type B infection can cause acute liver failure and even death. Immune-deficient people are more likely to develop a chronic infection. Hepatitis B is transmitted through the blood and is 100 times more infectious than the HIV virus. The hepatitis B virus can be contracted through unprotected sex with a carrier of the disease, through intravenous drug use, and unclean tattoo and piercing environments.
Hepatitis C causes inflammation of the liver. Swelling and liver infection can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure and liver cancer. The chances of developing a chronic infection is high (approximately 75-85%). Hepatitis C is a common condition in the U.S. and most people with the disease are not aware that they are infected. Like type B, type C is contracted through the blood. It can be transmitted by intravenous drug use, contact with infected blood, unsanitary tattoo or body piercing instruments, unprotected sex with an infected person, or coming into contact with other blood-contaminated items.
Is hepatitis curable?
In conclusion, we have found that whether this disease is curable greatly depends on what type of the disease you have contracted.
- Hepatitis A never becomes chronic and infection time spans from two weeks to six
- Hepatitis B can usually be cleared by the body’s immune system even when acute. When the disease becomes chronic it can sometimes be treated with antiviral drugs.
- Depending on the genotype of hepatitis C, approximately 90 percent of people who are treated with protease inhibitors will achieve sustained viral response (absence of the disease in the blood) and be cured of the infection, according to the National Institute of Health. A 2015 study published by Jayne Smith-Palmer a Health Economics and Outcomes Research Analyst, people who achieve SVR have a 1-2 percent relapse rate and a very low likelihood of liver-related mortality. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new pill as of July 2017 that can cure it, however, this will only cure the disease and not the long-term damage done to the liver as a result of contracting it.
How can I prevent hepatitis?
There are many ways to help prevent this disease, to protect yourself from type A & B you can get vaccinated. Ensure you do not share needles and when getting a tattoo or receiving a medical procedure ensure it is done in a sanitary environment. Do not eat at any places that look unhygienic and always make sure you wash your hands. Types B and sometimes C can be sexually transmitted so practice safe sex and wear a condom.
Find out more about the basics of liver health with Dr. Tarek Hassanein, M.D.