Dr. Baruch Blumberg discovered hepatitis B in 1967. Two years later, he created the first hep B vaccine. World Hepatitis Day is July 28, Dr. Blumberg's birthday. On this date, global health organizations recognize this group of diseases that affects 325 million people around the world. Here's a bit more about viral hepatitis, including diagnosis and treatment.
Types of Viral Hepatitis
There are five major types of viral hepatitis. You may have heard of hep A and hep C, but there is also hep B, hep D, and hep E. Each one is spread by a virus. Hepatitis A and E are usually short-term, while hepatitis B, C, and D are typically chronic, often lifelong conditions. The experience of a person with hepatitis varies greatly. Effective treatments for hep C, for example, mean it is possible to clear the hep C condition within a matter of weeks. Because of this possibility, it is a good idea to get tested. Hep B, although it is often chronic, may also be acute (short term). Hep E is acute, but can have serious consequences, especially for pregnant women.
There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B, but no vaccines for the other types. There can be serious long-term complications from chronic forms of hepatitis. Hep B and hep C can lead to:
- chronic liver disease
- liver failure
- liver cancer
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
Your doctor may take several steps to diagnose hepatitis, such as:
- Take your medical history
- Ask about new or unusual symptoms
- Do a physical exam
- Perform liver function tests and other blood tests
- Do an ultrasound to examine your internal organs
- Perform a liver biopsy
The specific types of tests your doctor performs depend on your personal health history and the kind of hepatitis you may have.
The treatment for hepatitis depends on the type you have. Some like hep A and acute (short-term) hep B do not need medical treatment beyond home care like bed rest and staying hydrated. Hep D and hep E do not have specific treatments, although doctors may recommend hospitalization and monitoring for those at high risk, like pregnant women with hep E.
Antiviral medications are often prescribed to treat hep C and chronic hep B. Doctors often recommend people with hep C get vaccinated against hep A and B, as these can make the complications of hep C worse. In some cases, doctors may also perform a liver transplant on someone with hep C. As there is a great deal of research into chronic forms of hepatitis, treatments continue to advance.
Rxless has several antiviral medications available at a discount, such as Epivir, Viread, Baraclude. It is important to only take medications your doctor prescribes, especially when you are facing the challenge of a serious illness like hepatitis.
On World Hepatitis Day, stay informed about this important and challenging group of diseases. There is treatment and a path to recovery for many people who receive a diagnosis of hepatitis.