What is Hepatitis?


In a nutshell, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Not surprisingly with such a broad definition, there are many types of hepatitis.

  • Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A is caused by a virus, usually transmitted via food or drink. While about 20% of Hepatitis A patients become ill enough to necessitate a hospital visit, it is the least dangerous form and it usually takes care of itself. There is typically no long-term liver inflammation or damage. There is a vaccine available, but it is important to note that, like any vaccine, this is only effective if it is received before exposure to the virus.

  • Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood, meaning one patient may infect another through sexual contact, the sharing of needles, or even from mother to newborn child. Most adults recover from Hepatitis B, but a small number are unable to become free of the disease and, despite being free of symptoms, may continue to spread it to others. Vaccines do exist to prevent Hepatitis B.

  • Hepatitis C – Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood, and much more rarely, through sexual contact. This is one of the more serious forms of hepatitis, in that it has a higher likelihood of long lasting damage, such as cirrhosis, a harmful scarring of the liver. Many patients with Hepatitis C experience few to no symptoms, making it harder to detect in the early stages. There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C.

  • Hepatitis D – Hepatitis D is a complication of Hepatitis B. One does not develop Hepatitis D without first having B. As such, the Hepatitis vaccine offers protection from Hepatitis D.

  • Hepatitis E – Hepatitis E is a virus most often spread through the consumption of infected food or beverage. This form is significantly more common in Africa, Asia, India, and Mexico than in the United States or European countries, sometimes even affecting visitors to these countries. Vaccines have been developed, but are not yet widely available.

Regardless of the form, symptoms may vary from person to person, and are often mild or non-existent. When symptoms are present, they may include jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and/or eyes), noticeably dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.


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