When you think of hepatitis, you might think of dirty needles or dark alleyways. While it’s true that drug-induced hepatitis is a thing, it’s actually pretty rare.
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, so we’re going to delve into the nitty gritty of what hepatitis is, the different types, how it’s spread, symptoms, treatments, and other helpful resources.
What is Hepatitis?
History indicates that hepatitis has been around since ancient civilization (1). Outbreaks as far back as 5,000 years ago in China have been recorded, and 40,000 cases arose during the American Civil War.
Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of your liver. This type of inflammation often stems from swelling caused by infections or injury.
This can happen a number of ways, but the most common type is brought on by a virus. Hepatitis can be acute, meaning it only lasts for a short time. Or it can be chronic, lasting for months, or even years.
Types of Hepatitis
There are several different types of hepatitis (2), as well as different sources.
- Viral hepatitis: This is the most common type of hepatitis.
- Alcoholic hepatitis: Heavy alcohol use over an extended period of time can cause liver inflammation.
- Toxic hepatitis: Because your liver is your detox center, exposures to toxic chemicals, poisons, supplements, or medications can cause infections or abnormalities.
- Autoimmune hepatitis: While rare, a small percentage experience a phenomenon where their own immune system attacks their liver. What causes autoimmune hepatitis? Researchers aren’t sure, but genetics or environment may play a role.
Not everyone who contracts hepatitis will have symptoms, especially with viral versions like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. But if you’re concerned about your risk, knowing what the symptoms are can help you take the next best step.
Typically, hepatitis symptoms can include (3) :
- Dark urine
- Abdominal pain
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Joint pain
How is hepatitis spread? Hepatitis can spread through different channels, depending on which type it is. For examples, Hepatitis A-E are viral and spread through (4):
- contact with an infected person’s stool
- undercooked meats like pork, deer, or shellfish
- unprotected sex
- sharing needles
- contact with infected person’s blood
Note: Symptoms of viral hepatitis can appear between 2 weeks and 6 months (5) for acute infections, but may not appear for many years in those who have chronic infections.
How is Hepatitis Treated?
After receiving a diagnosis, you may be wondering what your treatment options are.
Treatment protocols can vary, depending on whether the infection is acute or chronic (6). Most acute cases will resolve on their own, and no intervention is needed other than rest and fluids.
- If you have chronic hepatitis due to alcohol, you will likely be advised to stop drinking.
- For viral or bacterial hepatitis, injectable and oral medication may help fight complications.
- In cases where your liver is failing or you develop cancer, a liver transplant may be necessary.
Do antibiotics treat hepatitis? Because most infections are viral, antibiotics may not prove very effective. However, one study showed that amoxicillin treated bacterial hepatitis in mice (10). Antibiotics may also be used to treat secondary infections that might occur.
There are also herbs and natural supplements that can support your liver and possibly help lessen the severity of symptoms. Some of the best herbs that support the liver (7) are:
- Milk thistle
- Dandelion root
- Yellow Dock
- Burdock root
- Red clover
- Green tea
Herbal supplements can come in different forms. Talk with your doctor about whether these herbs are best for you.
What about prevention? At this time, the autoimmune variant of hepatitis cannot be prevented. There are vaccinations that are said to help prevent viral forms of hepatitis (8).
Helpful Resources for Hepatitis Awareness Month
Because May is dedicated to Hepatitis Awareness, there are numerous resources available. These resources can help you support those who’ve been diagnosed, raise awareness in your community, and learn more about this condition.
What are some ways you can get involved? The American Liver Foundation offers resources such as online support groups, help centers, and clinical trial searches (10) to help educate and involve you in the whole process.
Local groups may organize fundraisers for loved ones, or walks to raise awareness. Some events may charge a small fee, while others may be free.
Inflammation in any part of the body is a recipe for bad news. And because your liver helps with proper digestion and detoxing processes, it’s necessary for a full and healthy life.
Hepatitis is a word used for inflammation of the liver. Inflammation can come from injury or infection. Different types of hepatitis can stem from different viral or bacterial invasions, toxins, excessive alcohol use, and autoimmune triggers.
Depending on whether it’s acute or chronic, treatment can vary from a few days of rest to lifelong medication.
If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with hepatitis, there are lots of ways to show your support. Learning all you can, participating in events, and encouraging healthy habits are all part of walking this journey with them.
Spread the word about Hepatitis and share this article with your community today!
References & Disclaimer
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author