What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that results in liver cell damage and destruction. There are several different types of hepatitis, but the two most common are hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Overview of hepatitis B and hepatitis C
In hepatitis B, the liver is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This causes inflammation, and the liver isn't able to work the way it should. In the U.S., hepatitis B is one of the most common diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine. Transmission of hepatitis B virus occurs through body fluid exposure such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions or saliva. Needle sticks, sharp instruments, sharing items (razors, toothbrushes) and sex with an infected person are primary modes of hepatitis B transmission in developed countries.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a blood-borne virus. The symptoms of hepatitis C are usually mild and gradual. Transmission of hepatitis C occurs primarily from contact with infected blood, but it can also occur from sexual contact or from an infected mother to her baby. Although hepatitis C has milder symptoms initially, it leads to chronic liver disease in a majority of people who are infected. According to the CDC, hepatitis C is the leading indication for liver transplantation and is the number one cause of liver cancer in the United States.
Hepatitis B is not treated unless it becomes a long-term infection. Then, medicines are used to try to slow down or stop the virus from damaging the liver. Hepatitis C treatment is changing rapidly, which is why your liver disease should be closely monitored by a board-certified hepatologist with extensive knowledge in the latest research and results.
Hepatitis treatment plans for patients will be determined by their care team based on age, medical history, type and stage of hepatitis B and C and personal preferences. Hepatitis treatment options may include:
- Lifestyle changes for hepatitis B
- Lifestyle changes for hepatitis C
- Medication for hepatitis C
- Clinical trials (when appropriate)