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Hepatitis Medicine

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What Is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is infection of the liver with the hepatitis A virus. About 150,000 people are infected every year in the United States. Most people recover in 2 to 6 months without serious health problems.

People with hepatitis A very rarely develop liver failure.

What Causes Hepatitis A?

The cause is the hepatitis A virus. Food (such as shellfish from polluted water) or water contaminated with infected stools (bowel movements) can spread the virus. The most common source of spread is infected food handlers who don’t wash their hands well after using the bathroom. Direct contact with infected people will pass the infection to others. Outbreaks occur most often in day care centers, military bases, and institutions for disabled. In more than 40% of cases, it isn’t known how people get infected.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Not all people have symptoms. Symptoms may occur, usually during the first month following infection. The main symptom is jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes), plus pale or clay-colored stools, dark urine, and itching all over the body. Flu-like symptoms of fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, low-grade fever, and pain in the abdomen (belly) in the liver area may occur before jaundice.

How Is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?

The health care provider will do a physical examination and a blood test to show antibody to the virus. The antibody is a substance made by the immune, or infection-fighting, system. Liver function tests will also be much higher than normal.

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How Is Hepatitis A Treated?

No specific treatment exists. Most people can be cared for at home. Proper rest for several days after diagnosis is important. During this time, intimate contact with other people should be avoided. The diet should be balanced and include high-calorie foods. People who come in close contact with the infected person and who have not been previously vaccinated should be given immune serum globulin within 2 weeks of exposure by their physician.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Hepatitis A:
  • DO get plenty of rest and eat a well-balanced diet.
  • DO make sure to wash your hands if you have hepatitis or care for someone who does, especially if you contact fecal material.
  • DO use separate or disposable eating and drinking utensils.
  • DO wash your hands properly after changing a diaper and before doing anything else if you work in a day care center. Restaurant workers should always wash their hands properly.
  • DO use proper protection, such as gloves and eyeglasses, if you’re exposed to fecal material and other body fluids on the job.
  • DO call your health care provider if you were exposed to someone with hepatitis A or you have symptoms of the disease.
  • DO call your health care provider if your hepatitis symptoms don’t go away within 4 weeks.
  • DON’T drink alcohol. Avoid substances that may hurt the liver.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the following sources:

  • Hepatitis Foundation International
    Tel: (800) 891-0707
    Website: http://www.hepfi.org/
  • American Gastroenterological Association
    Tel: (301) 654-2055
    Website: http://www.gastro.org
  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
    Tel: (800) 891-5389
    Website: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/nddic.htm

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor

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What Is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is infection of the liver with a virus. More than 1 million people in the United States are carriers of the virus. About 200,000 people get this disease each year. Certain racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and Native Americans, have higher rates of infection.

About 90% of people recover completely in a few months. Others become carriers or chronically infected. Hepatitis B is a serious disease, and about 1% of people die during the acute stage.

What Causes Hepatitis B?

The cause is the hepatitis B virus. The virus is passed to others by sexual contact with infected people and using nonsterile needles. Infected blood and other body fluids (e.g., semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk, tears, saliva, and fluid in open sores) can spread the virus. Infected mothers can give it to babies.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Not all people have symptoms. If they do occur they usually appear within 6 months from when the infection is acquired. First symptoms may be rashes, joint pains, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms. Then, jaundice (yellow skin or whites of the eyes) may occur. Other symptoms are pale or clay-colored stools, dark urine, itching, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, and pain in the abdomen (belly). Severe disease may lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring), fluid in the abdomen (ascites), and liver failure.

How Is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?

The health care provider will do an examination and blood test to show the presence of the virus in the blood (hepatitis B antigens) and the body’s response to the infection (hepatitis B antibodies). Liver function tests will also be abnormal.

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How Is Hepatitis B Treated?

No treatment exists for acute disease. Most people can receive care at home. Activity is as tolerated. Proper rest for 1 to 4 weeks after diagnosis is beneficial. During this time, intimate contact with other people should be avoided. The diet should be high in calories. People who come in contact with infected people and newborns of infected mothers should be given immune globulin plus hepatitis B vaccine within 2 weeks of exposure.

Medicine is given to those with persistent infection (chronic hepatitis B) to prevent more liver damage.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Hepatitis B:
  • DO get plenty of rest and eat a well-balanced diet.
  • DO use condoms when having sex.
  • DO avoid exposing others to your blood and other body fluids.
  • DO call your health care provider if symptoms don’t go away in 4 or 6 weeks or new symptoms develop.
  • DO ask your health care provider about vaccines for family members and others close to you.
  • DON’T drink alcohol or take medications such as acetaminophen that can further damage your liver.
  • DON’T share needles, donate blood, or breast-feed your baby.
  • DON’T have sex with an infected person or carrier.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the following sources:

  • American Liver Foundation
    Tel: (800) 465-4837
    Website: http://www.liverfoundation.org/
  • Hepatitis Foundation International
    Tel: (800) 891-0707
    Website: http://www.hepfi.org/

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor

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What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is infection of the liver with a virus (hepatitis C virus).

Some people with hepatitis C never have serious health problems, but up to 20% get liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis means liver scarring, so the liver cannot work well. At least 50% of the people infected with hepatitis C virus may have chronic liver disease, meaning liver inflammation (swelling) is long-lasting. About 1% to 5% of infected people die of liver disease.

What Causes Hepatitis C?

The cause is the hepatitis C virus.

The virus is passed to others by infected blood, as when people share needles to inject drugs. The next most common way is anal sex.

Other ways to get hepatitis C are by pricking a finger on a contaminated needle; tattooing, body piercing, or acupuncture with nonsterile equipment; mother-to-baby infection during birth; and blood transfusions or organ transplants done in the United States before July 1992 or in other countries with poor blood donor screening.

Hugging, kissing, toilet seats, or sharing cups or kitchen utensils cannot transmit hepatitis C.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

Most people have no symptoms, but symptoms can be mild to severe and sometimes life-threatening. Symptoms of acute disease include headache, aches and pains, fatigue, and upset stomach. These can last for several weeks. The most common symptom of chronic hepatitis C is fatigue. Others are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and pain in the upper abdomen (belly), under the ribs.

How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed?

People often find out about having hepatitis C by a routine blood test showing high liver enzyme levels or when donating blood and hepatitis C antibody is found. If your health care provider suspects hepatitis C, blood tests will be done to look for the presence of antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. The antibody is a substance made by the immune, or infection-fighting, system in response to an infection. Tests may include a liver biopsy to help make decisions about treatment. In a liver biopsy, the doctor uses a special needle to take small samples of cells from the liver.

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How Is Hepatitis C Treated?

Acute hepatitis C generally has no specific treatment. Most people can receive care at home. Rest and proper diet are important for severe symptoms. Avoid alcohol and substances that hurt the liver.

People with chronic disease are treated with newer medicines that can actually cure hepatitis C. Success depends on which type of hepatitis C virus caused the infection. With genotypes 2 and 3 the success rate is very high. The cure rates are lower in those with genotypes 1 and 4. In severe cases liver transplantation may be needed.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Hepatitis C:
  • DO get help for a drug problem if you have one.
  • DO follow a healthy lifestyle. Avoid alcohol, which may further damage the liver. If possible, give it up completely.
  • DO get regular medical checkups.
  • DO see your health care provider right away if you get jaundice (yellow skin and dark-colored urine), pain in your abdomen, nausea or vomiting lasting more than 1 to 2 days, or blood in your vomit.
  • DO call your health care provider if hepatitis C symptoms persist after completion of treatment.
  • DON’T take medicines that can hurt the liver, such as acetaminophen.
  • DON’T share needles.
  • DON’T breast-feed your baby.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the following sources:

  • Hepatitis Foundation International
    Tel: (800) 891-0707
    Website: http://www.hepfi.org
  • American Gastroenterological Association
    Tel: (301) 654-2055
    Website: http://www.gastro.org
  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
    Tel: (800) 891-5389
    Website: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/nddic.htm

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor