What is Hepatitis?Simply put, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. This inflammation can be caused by several factors including:
- exposure to chemicals
- environmental toxins
- autoimmune disorders
- alcohol use
Hepatitis can be categorized into two types:
Facts about acute hepatitis include:
- a sudden or gradual onset
- is short-lived, usually lasting less than two months
- liver damage is usually mild
- on rare occasions can be fatal
- in some circumstances can progress to chronic hepatitis.
Facts about chronic hepatitis includes:
- persists for long periods of time
- classified as either
- chronic persistent - usually mild and slow to progress but can become more severe progressing to chronic acute hepatitis
- chronic acute - as liver damage becomes more extensive and severe, chronic active hepatitis can cause cirrhosis, most often resulting in liver failure and even death
The Viral Causes of HepatitisCurrently, there are 7 known viruses that cause hepatitis. These are designated by the letters A through G. Keep in mind that the cause of some hepatitis is unknown, leading scientists to believe there are other viruses that have yet to be discovered.
Formally known as infectious hepatitis, this form is always acute and never becomes chronic. Hep A is transmitted by contact with infected feces, food or water that has been contaminated. Often Hep A is a result of poor hand washing techniques among food preparation workers at restaurants. The risk of contracting Hep A can be reduced with a series of vaccines.
Formally known as serum hepatitis Hep b is transmitted via sexual contact, saliva, contaminated needles used by drug users and exposure to infected blood. Hep B often will progress to a chronic hepatitis without showing signs of active hepatitis. The risk of contracting Hep B can be reduced with a series of vaccines.
At one time, Hep C was transmitted by receiving blood transfusions. But with the advent of blood screening tests, that mode of transmission is very rare. Now Hep C is transmitted primarily by sharing contaminated needles and syringes between intravenous drug users. It can also be transmitted by sexual contact with someone already infected, or by occupational exposure via needlesticks. Hep C is a chronic hepatitis that often shows no acute stage. Infection with Hep C can go undetected without symptoms for years. Many scientists believe that Hep C will become the next public health crisis.
- Hepatitis D
Because Hep D can only replicate by attaching to Hep B, it can only occur in the presence of Hep B.
- Hepatitis E
Similar to Hep A, Hep E is transmitted by contaminated food and water. Once thought to be rare and limited to those people who travel, some experts estimate that up to 20 percent of Americans could be infected.
- Hepatitis G
Hep G is most often present only in combination with other types of hepatitis such as Hep A, Hep B or Hep C.