Types of Hepatitis

The 5 Most Common Types of Viral Hepatitis

December 4, 2018


How Many Types of Hepatitis Are There?

If you or a loved one are living with hepatitis, you might be wondering what is the difference between hepatitis  A, B, C, D, and E? Which is the most dangerous?

While hepatitis is complex, the word simply means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can be caused by  numerous things including diet, alcohol, medications, viruses and lifestyle. When we think of hepatitis, many of us think  about hepatitis A, B, and C, but hepatitis D and E are also viruses that cause liver inflammation.

Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E differ from one virus to the other and have varying degrees of severity.

Hepatitis A causes acute inflammation of the liver that almost always resolves on its own. This type of  hepatitis can easily spread to many people through contaminated food and water. Hepatitis A can be  prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis B can be both acute and chronic. This type of hepatitis is spread through blood or bodily fluids in  various ways. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis C is, in most cases a chronic disease. It spreads mainly by blood. While hepatitis A and B can be prevented by  vaccination, hepatitis C cannot.

Hepatitis D and E are rare in the United States. Hepatitis D can only be acquired if the individual already has  hepatitis B. Meanwhile, hepatitis E is most commonly found in countries lacking clean water and sanitation.

When it comes to which hepatitis is the most dangerous, the answer isn’t black and white. Read on for a more  in-depth look at each of the viruses.

Hepatitis A: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

What Is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The highly-contagious infection typically causes  a mild illness lasting a few weeks, but in some cases, hepatitis A can cause more severe problems;

Hepatitis A Symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain

How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you for hepatitis – if you show any of the signs above and have elevated levels of liver  enzymes. Your doctor will confirm a hepatitis A diagnosis by looking at the levels of IgM and IgG antibodies in your blood.

Hepatitis A Causes

Hepatitis A can be transmitted by someone who has the virus, or by eating fruits, vegetables, or other food that were contaminated during the handling process, eating raw shellfish harvested from water that has the virus, or by consuming contaminated ice or water.

People may have an increased risk of contracting hepatitis A if they live with some who is infected, or have  sexual intercourse with some who is infected. Traveling to a country where hepatitis A is common can also increase your risk.

Hepatitis A Treatment

If you have hepatitis A, your doctor will treat your symptoms, but there is no medication that can rid you of the  infection. The disease will go away on its own and your liver will be monitored in the meantime.

While your body is fighting the infection, you can take these steps to self-care at home:

  • Rest– Hepatitis can make you feel sick and tired, so be sure to get adequate rest.
  • Eat enough and drink enough fluids– Hepatitis A can cause nausea, which can make eating and drinking  a challenge. If you experience nausea, try snacking throughout the day or eat high-calorie foods when  you can. Drink sports drinks if you have been vomiting, to hydrate and replace your electrolytes.
  • Avoid alcohol – Your liver has a tough time processing medications, so alcohol adds unnecessary work for your liver. Medications and alcohol can cause liver damage, so be sure to avoid both while you are  recovering from hepatitis A. If you are taking any medications, be sure to tell your doctor.

Hepatitis A Complications

Typically, hepatitis A does not have any long-term complications. However, around 10 to 15 percent of people  with hepatitis A will experience long-lasting symptoms or recurring symptoms, over a six to ninth-month period.

In severe cases, some people may experience liver failure or need a liver transplant.

Preventing Hepatitis A

There is a hepatitis A vaccine available that is 95 percent effective in healthy adults and can work for over 20  years. Children can also get the vaccine.

If you don’t have the hepatitis A vaccine and come in contact with someone who has the infection, you can get  an immune globulin shot with two weeks.

Preventing hepatitis A starts with good hygiene. Make sure to always wash your hands with soap and water  after using the bathroom and before and after handling food.

Hepatitis B: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

What Is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver. Hepatitis B can cause scarring of the liver, as well as liver failure and  cancer. If left untreated, hepatitis B may be fatal.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

Many people with hepatitis B don’t experience any symptoms at all. For those who do experience symptoms,  they typically occur one to six months after they catch the virus.

Symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Light-color bowel movements

How Is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?

Because many people do not experience any symptoms, hepatitis B is diagnosed through a blood test that  detects inflammation in the liver. Your doctor will confirm a hepatitis B diagnosis by looking at the levels of  HBsAg and anti-HBs antibodies in your blood and viral load.

Hepatitis B Causes

This infection is caused by the the hepatitis B virus. People can become infected by having sexual intercourse  with someone who has the virus. Hepatitis B can be spread by blood, saliva, semen, or vaginal secretions that enter your blood.

Hepatitis B can also be contracted from sharing needles and syringes that have been contaminated with  infected blood.

In addition, if a mother has hepatitis B, she can pass it to her child during childbirth.

Hepatitis B Treatment

Hepatitis B can sometimes be treated with a vaccine and a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin, which is a  protein that boosts the immune system.

If you think you may have been infected with hepatitis B, it’s important to seek medical attention. The earlier you receive treatment, the better.

In addition, hepatitis B is treated by:

  • Avoiding alcohol –Those with hepatitis B need to avoid anything that can damage the liver, including  alcohol. This also means avoiding things like acetaminophen and herbal treatments.
  • Eating a healthy diet –A diet rich is whole foods is best.
  • Medication –Depending on how long your infection is active, your doctor may prescribe you certain  medications.

Hepatitis B Complications

In severe cases, hepatitis B can be fatal. Some people experience an infection that is active longer than six  months, which means they have chronic active hepatitis B. This requires certain medications to treat the ongoing condition.

Chronic hepatitis B can lead to:

  • Blood vessel issues
  • Cirrhosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure

Preventing Hepatitis B

There is a hepatitis B vaccine available that is recommended for all newborns. To help keep hepatitis B from  spreading, you can do the following:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Use condoms
  • Wear gloves when you clean up after others (especially if you have to touch bandages or linens)
  • Cover all open cuts
  • Don’t share toothbrushes, nail care tools or razors

Hepatitis C: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. There are numerous forms of the  hepatitis C virus, but the most common is genotype 1.

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Many people with hepatitis C experience no immediate symptoms. Between two and six weeks of being  infected, people may experience the following symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you may have hepatitis C, they will check your blood for anti-HCV antibodies. These are  proteins that the body makes when it finds the hepatitis C virus in the blood. Your doctor will also test for the  presence of HCV RNA in your blood. This measures the number of viral RNA particles in the blood; something that usually shows up one to two weeks after someone is infected by the virus.

Elevated liver function tests may also indicate a Hepatitis C infection.

Hepatitis C Causes

Hepatitis C can occur when a person comes in contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.

Hepatitis C can be spread by sharing injection drugs and needles, sharing personal care items like  toothbrushes, nail clippers, and razors blades, getting a tattoo with unclean equipment or having unprotected  sexual intercourse with an infected person.

Hepatitis C can also be spread during childbirth.

It’s important to note that hepatitis C cannot be spread through breastfeeding, casual contact, coughing,  holding hands, hugging, kissing, sharing utensils, or sneezing.

Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C treatment depends on what stage of the virus you have. Those with chronic hepatitis C may be placed on medication. Hepatitis C  medications are generally well tolerated.

Hepatitis C Complications

Chronic hepatitis C is a complication of being infected with the hepatitis C virus. Around 75 to 85 percent of  people who are infected with the virus developed a long-term infection. If chronic hepatitis C goes untreated, it  can cause cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.

Preventing Hepatitis C

Although there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, you can help avoid getting the virus by:

  • Using condoms
  • Avoid sharing personal care items
  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes
  • Be cautious about tattoos and piercings

Hepatitis D: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

What Is Hepatitis D?

Hepatitis D, also known as the hepatitis delta virus, is an infection of the liver that causes the organ to become  inflamed. As a result, the liver swells, which can impair overall function and cause long-term problems.

Unlike other hepatitis viruses, hepatitis D cannot be contracted on its own. It can only be contracted by people  who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus.

Hepatitis D Symptoms

Many people with hepatitis D experience no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

How Is Hepatitis D Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have hepatitis D, they will run a series of blood test to look at levels of specific  antibodies in the blood. They will also do liver function tests if they suspect you have liver damage.

Hepatitis D Causes

Hepatitis D is caused by coming into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. The hepatitis  D virus can be transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal floods, or urine. The virus can also be transmitted during childbirth.

Hepatitis D Treatment

There are current antiviral medications available, but they aren’t as effective in treating hepatitis D.

If you are infected with the hepatitis D virus, you will likely be given a large dose of a medication called  interferon. Patients will typically continue to receive doses of this medication for up to one year. In many cases,  this medication can stop the virus from spreading, but it’s important to note that even if you are in remission, you will still test positive for hepatitis D and can still spread it.

Hepatitis D Complications

If left untreated, hepatitis D can have serious complications including cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. In  severe cases where the liver has sustained significant damage, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Preventing Hepatitis D

Preventing hepatitis D starts with preventing hepatitis B. To reduce your risk for hepatitis B, you can take the  following measures:

  • Use condoms
  • Get vaccinated
  • Avoid sharing personal care items
  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes
  • Be cautious about tattoos and piercings

Hepatitis E: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

What Is Hepatitis E?

Hepatitis E is a short-term and self-resolving version of hepatitis. The infection targets the liver and is  transmitted through indirect fecal contamination of food or water.

Hepatitis E Symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis E include:

  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Enlarged liver
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Acute liver failure
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Nausea

How Is Hepatitis E Diagnosed?

Hepatitis E is diagnosed via a series of blood tests. Diagnosing hepatitis E can be challenging because of its  similarities with other forms of hepatitis.

Hepatitis E Causes

Hepatitis E can be caused by drinking water that is contaminated with fecal matter. While hepatitis E is  uncommon in the United States, it can be a real risk when traveling to countries with poor sanitation.

Hepatitis E can also be transmitted by eating animals products from infected animals, blood transfusion, and  childbirth.

Hepatitis E Treatment

While most cases of hepatitis E clear up on their own after a few weeks, sometimes the infection can cause  liver failure. For people with severe acute illness, they will typically be treated with a medication known as  ribavirin for 21 days to avoid further liver damage.

If your immune system is not suppressed, you will likely not need medications and can see significant  improvement with rest, fluids, a healthy diet, and by avoiding alcohol.

Hepatitis E Complications

Hepatitis E rarely has complications, but in some severe cases, it can lead to acute liver failure, which can be  fatal.

Preventing Hepatitis E

You can reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis E by being diligent with your drinking water. Don’t drink water  that may have come from an unsanitary place. If you visit a developing country, stick to boiled or purified water and avoid uncooked and unpeeled produce, and shellfish, since these are usually rinsed in water.

Contact Pinnacle Clinical Research for More Information on Hepatitis

At Pinnacle Clinical Research, we have a solid volunteer database and work with over 70 referring physicians in  the area to meet target enrollment goals on time. Patient safety and care is our top priority. We conduct clinical  trials involving the hepatitis virus and are here to answer any of your questions. Contact us today to learn more.