Hepatitis or Liver Disease
Many factors can cause hepatitis or liver disease. It is most often brought on by a virus, chemicals, alcohol, drugs, inherited diseases, or your immune system’s poor response. This type of inflammation can vary in severity from chronic to flare-ups. And, in some cases, it can be resolved within a few weeks or months with treatment. Other people struggle with this disease for years. Still, others suffer from chronic hepatitis, which can be present for 20 years or more. In chronic conditions, the symptoms can progressively get worse and lead to cirrhosis (which is a scarring or a loss of function of the liver) as well as liver cancer and death.
Understanding Liver Disease and Hepatitis
The liver is an important organ in your body. It is located on the upper right side of your abdomen. It has a variety of tasks to manage including helping to process the nutrients brought into your body. It helps your body to digest fats by producing bile. It also helps to synthesize proteins so that they are usable by the body’s cells. It regulates blood clotting and the breakdown of toxic substances you’ve ingested to ensure they are harmless to you.
When inflammation in this area occurs at a severe level, it can limit the function of the liver. This may allow for potentially toxic substances to accumulate in your body. This can be very dangerous.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
The symptoms of this condition can vary significantly. They are often confused with the flu, in fact. However, for those who suffer from acute hepatitis, the symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark colored urine may develop in some people
- Light-colored stool is present
Your hepatitis doctor in Brooklyn will also feel the liver to determine if it is enlarged and tender, also symptoms of liver disease.
In chronic hepatitis, the symptoms may not be present at all. Some people may only feel tired or lack energy. In other people, the symptoms become more common as the condition progresses over years. And, eventually, it will lead to liver failure. This can take years to occur. It will not go away without proper treatment.
What Is Viral Hepatitis?
Another form of hepatitis, and the most common cause of it, is a viral infection. Viruses that are associated with this condition are associated with a letter, A, B, C, D, and E. Here is a look at them.
This condition is commonly spread through food and water contaminated by fecal matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of all people in the United States are infected with hepatitis A at some point during their lives. The symptoms of this condition can include flu-like feelings. Most of the time, this condition improves without treatment, or with treatment over six months, and many people never know they have it.
Another common type of hepatitis is this form, often simply known as acute viral hepatitis. It is commonly spread through the blood including through infected needles, from mother to child during pregnancy and birth, and from sexual relations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 73,000 new cases of this form of hepatitis in the United States each year. That is much lower than the 260,000 people that were often diagnosed with it in 1980. With this form of hepatitis, most individuals do not need medical intervention to improve. However, up to 3 percent of people become carriers who will remain infected with the condition long term and can transmit it to others as a result.
Newborns are at the highest risk for chronic infection as 90 percent of those who are exposed to it will remain carriers throughout their lives. This is one of the reasons most pregnant women will be tested for hepatitis B and vaccinations are given to young children. This has helped to reduce the amount of children that have been infected with the condition over the long term.
The highest level of chronic hepatitis B today occurs in people born in eastern and southern Asia, southern Europe and in Africa. Here, infections in newborns are still very common.
This form of viral hepatitis stems from contaminated blood. This occurs in situations where people share needles. It is common in individuals who consume illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The use of equipment during this type of drug use that’s contaminated with hepatitis can cause it to spread. This type of viral hepatitis is also common in those who get tattoos or body piercings, those who are at a high level of risk of exposure to needles (such as healthcare workers), and those who are sexually active and exposed to blood through tissue tears. It is also found in mothers passing it down to babies during childbirth. It can occur in situations where people have open wounds such as during athletic activities.
This form of hepatitis is less common. Acute cases of it, though, can occur. About 55 to 85 percent of people who are exposed to this form of hepatitis are likely to become chronic carriers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hepatitis D and E
These forms of viral hepatitis are less commonly found in the United States. It only creates an infection when hepatitis B is present. When this is present, it can make the symptoms individuals have much worse. The most common way it is passed is through exposure to blood, such as through infected needles. This type of condition is more common in South America, Africa, and Asia.
Hepatitis from Chemicals
Another way that you can suffer from hepatitis is through a chemically-induced instance. As noted, the liver’s job is to remove harmful substances from the bloodstream that you ingest. This includes alcohol, drugs, and other environmental toxins. The liver then will break those toxins down so they can be used or removed from the body safely. However, when high levels of toxins are present in the system, the liver cannot keep up, and those high levels can accumulate over time.
Liver damage occurs when this type of high level is present over a long period of time. It can be brought on by many types of exposures including by some medications. Acetaminophen, for example, is one type of medication that, when taken in high doses beyond the recommendations provided, can cause liver disease. This can create an acute and life-threatening liver disease in many people, leading to liver failure. Excessive consumption of alcohol can also do this.
Some drugs have the ability to cause liver disease in some people. However, it is not fully understood why they affect some people and not others. These medications can include anesthetics, anabolic steroids, seizure medications, and antibiotics. An allergic reaction to the medication can be an indication of its toxicity to that individual.
Hepatitis That’s Inherited
In some cases, hepatitis can be inherited as well. In fact, these diseases are not known until there is an acute or chronic development of liver disease present. Hemochromatosis is the most common type of inherited hepatitis. It is brought on by the accumulation of high levels of iron in the body. When this occurs, the liver cannot process the high levels fast enough and liver disease can occur.
Another type of inherited form is a deficiency in alpha-1 antitrypsin, which is a commonly inherited disease. In children, both acute and chronic hepatitis can occur. In adults, the liver damage is limited but cirrhosis and liver cancer can be associated with a chronic and worsening level of exposure. Wilson’s disease is another progressively worsening condition that can also be uncovered after liver damage occurs.
Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), also known as chronic hepatitis, is yet another form of this condition. This occurs due to the buildup of too much fat in the liver. This is most commonly found in people who have metabolic syndrome. This condition is a combination of ailments that include hypertension, high triglyceride levels, low levels of HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, or type 2 diabetes. It is also characterized in people who are obese, in particular, those who have a lot of belly fat. The worst version of this condition is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, also known as NASH. The only way to understand if you have this condition is if your Brooklyn gastroenteritis performs a liver biopsy to find it.
An autoimmune condition can cause hepatitis as well. This is most often a chronic form of the condition. Over time, it does worsen and leads to damage of the liver. About 24 percent of the time, it may create acute hepatitis. This form of liver disease is most common in women with 70 percent of cases occurring in women, according to the American Liver Foundation.
The body’s immune system targets and begins to attack the liver in this form of the condition. It is not fully understood why this happens. However, when it occurs, it can trigger a significant reaction and significant symptoms. In some cases, there is a correlation with autoimmune hepatitis and conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, type 1 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.
If you have hepatitis or think you may have the symptoms of hepatitis, please schedule a consultation with a Brooklyn hepatitis doctor to discuss your condition and the options for caring for it.