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Hepatitis Awareness Month

Posted By Michael Craven, Thursday, May 26, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis is an important virus that has a huge impact on public health and is one of the topics that we focus on in May. Hepatitis comes from the combination of two terms: Hepa- is the technical term for liver and -itis is the used to describe an inflammation. This disease is commonly associated with the Hepatitis virus, but is known to be caused by toxic substances and autoimmune disorders.


Hepatitis Virus
The most common types of Hepatitis virus in the United States are A, B, and C. There are two other types referred to as Hepatitis D and E viruses. According to the CDC, Hepatitis A, B, and C have 3,500, 19,800, and 29,700 new cases reported each year, respectively(2). There are vaccines available for Hepatitis A and B, however no vaccine is available for Hepatitis C(2). Many people are unaware that they are infected with these viruses. The most common route of infection for viruses A, B, and C are through contact with bodily fluids of another infected person including transfer from mother to child during birth(1,2). Typically, the B and C hepatitis viruses lead to more chronic diseases, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, so it is important for those with risk factors to be tested. Check out the CDC link at the bottom of this page to see a list of populations that should consider getting tested for the Hepatitis B and C viruses.


Toxic Substances
Hepatitis caused by toxic substances can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The liver is the one of the main organs in the body that processes/metabolizes whatever is introduced into the body. For that reason, an individual who consumes alcohol heavily will be at a higher risk for hepatitis because alcohol in large quantities is hard for you liver to process. Another cause of hepatitis can be over the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen(3). These can damage the liver over time, especially if they are taken with alcohol(3). Industrial chemicals, herbs/supplements, and prescription medications can cause liver damage (see the Mayo Clinic's list of prescriptions that can cause hepatitis)(3).


Autoimmune Hepatitis
A third cause of hepatitis can be autoimmune, or in other words the immune system of an individual begins attacking its own liver. This type of hepatitis can result in cirrhosis and liver failure(4). Autoimmune disorders of the liver can be treated with certain prescriptions(4). Typically people who develop autoimmune hepatitis have other autoimmune disorders and tend to be female(4).


Symptoms of Hepatitis
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Dark Urine
  • Grey Colored Stools
  • Joint Pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)

Sources:
(2)http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/abc/index.htm (List of at risk groups)

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