Hepatitis: What Is It and What Should One Do?

Liver is one of the most important organs in our body. Located in the upper-right part of our abdomen, it is responsible for filtering the blood that comes from our digestive tract, detoxification of various chemicals and metabolizing drugs that get into our system and holds almost 500 other functions.

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However, there is a number of diseases that can prevent its normal work and significantly decrease life quality of an infected person. One of these infections is hepatitis.

There are currently a few variations of hepatitis virus known to medical professionals. These are:

Hepatitis A (HAV)

This kind of virus is the least dangerous one, nevertheless, it is able to prevent one’s liver from working properly and may lead to developing a number of complications. Exposed to the risk of getting infected are the people who live(d) with someone having hepatitis A, men who have sex with men or people who have had sexual contact with an infected person, those who’ve been to a country where the virus is wide-spread. Basic preventive measures include maintaining good personal hygiene, washing foods one eats and minding the water one drinks. Hepatitis A normally doesn’t do any serious harm to our liver and is going away itself during approximately six months. Still, vaccines are available for persons who are in a category of high risk to get infected;

Hepatitis B (HBV)

This one is the more serious version of the virus that is divided into acute (lasting up to six months and going away without medical treatment) and chronic (lasting the whole lifetime and able to lead to complications like cirrhosis, liver cancer or even liver failure) forms. According to the statistics, the former option accounts for 95% of all Hepatitis B cases in the US, with only 5% getting a chronic form of disease. Among the risk of getting infected are people who have unprotected sexual contacts, children born to mothers with HBV, drug users, people who’ve been in prison, those who’ve traveled to the countries where HBV is wide-spread and hemodialysis patients. Maintaining good personal hygiene, taking one’s choices of sexual partners responsibly and using protection during sexual contacts, avoiding sharing needles if one is a drug user are all ways to prevent the disease;

Hepatitis C (HCV)

Being very serious and the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the US, Hepatitis C is the virus there is currently no vaccine from. Causing liver inflammation and disrupting its work, it often leads to further complications like liver cancer, cirrhosis or liver failure, with only 25% of all infected successfully recovering from it within six months from getting infected. Chronic form of the disease must be kept under control with medication. Moreover, according to Mayo Clinic, chronic form of Hepatitis C can now be successfully treated with two to six months’ medication course. The most common transmission ways are through blood, unprotected sex, injection drug users, people who’ve been on hemodialysis, inmates and children born to infected mothers. In some cases, infecting is also possible from getting pierced or tattooed. Again, keeping oneself clean, restraining from drug use, having safe sex and ensuring sterility of any needles one uses are basic preventive measures that significantly decrease one’s risk of getting infected;

Autoimmune hepatitis

Developing when our own immune system starts attacking our liver and causing its inflammation, this type of disease is always chronic and is much more common in women than in men, with 70% of diagnosed being females aged from 15 to 40. Though incurable, this type of disease can still be kept under control with medication. In extreme cases, liver transplant may be necessary. Untreated, it leads to complications such as cirrhosis and liver failure.

As it is much easier to prevent disease than to cure it afterwards, the American Liver Foundation has developed guidelines for keeping our liver healthy and functional. In addition to preventive measures already listed above, they urge everyone to ensure a balanced diet, maintain proper level of physical activity, avoid exposure to toxic substances, build responsible alcohol consumption model and, of course, regularly get tested for liver infections.

Though unpleasant and troublesome, all the kinds of Hepatitis can be successfully treated or effectively managed it diagnosed in proper time.

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