Hepatitis comes in wide variety, impacts

Jim Surrell, MD

In my previous Mining Journal column on Feb. 6, I reviewed the human liver anatomy and function. Today, let’s follow up with a brief discussion of the medical condition known as hepatitis.

The term hepatitis comes from hepatic, which is the medical term for the liver, and the suffix “itis” which is the medical term meaning infection, or inflammation. Recall that our liver is the largest organ inside our body, and its primary functions are to help our body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. Hepatitis is also generally medically defined as an inflammation of the liver.

According to the most recent data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of annual deaths from hepatitis in the U.S. was 8,081.

Further, the total number of annual cases of the three most common forms of hepatitis in the U.S. was as follows:

– Number of new annual Hepatitis A cases was 1,239;

– Number of new annual Hepatitis B cases was 2,791;

– Number of new annual Hepatitis C cases was 2,204.

Viruses cause most cases of hepatitis. The most common forms of hepatitis are referred to as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Drug or alcohol use can also cause hepatitis. Some people who have hepatitis have no symptoms. Other common symptoms include: loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements, stomach pain and jaundice, which is yellowing of skin and eyes.

Following is a very brief summary of these three most common forms of hepatitis.

– Hepatitis A — Hepatitis A causes only acute infection and typically gets better without treatment after a few weeks. The hepatitis A virus spreads through contact with an infected person’s stool. You can protect yourself by getting the hepatitis A vaccine.

– Hepatitis B — Hepatitis B can cause acute or chronic infection. Your doctor may recommend screening you for hepatitis B if you are pregnant or have a high chance of being infected. You can protect yourself from hepatitis B by getting the hepatitis B vaccine.

– Hepatitis C — Hepatitis C can cause acute or chronic infection. Your doctor may recommend screening you for hepatitis C if you have a high chance of being infected or were born between 1945 and 1965. Early diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C can prevent liver damage.

There are two more uncommon forms of hepatitis, and these are known as Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E. Following is some additional brief information on these two forms of hepatitis.

– Hepatitis D — The hepatitis D virus is unusual because it can only infect you when you also have a hepatitis B virus infection. A co-infection occurs when you get both hepatitis D and hepatitis B infections at the same time. A super-infection occurs if you already have chronic hepatitis B and then become infected with hepatitis D.

– Hepatitis E — Hepatitis E is typically an acute infection that gets better without treatment after several weeks. Some types of hepatitis E virus are spread by drinking water contaminated by an infected person’s stool. Other types are spread by eating undercooked pork or wild game.

If you or any family members have any concerns about hepatitis or feel you may have been recently exposed to hepatitis, be certain to contact your health care provider to discuss possible hepatitis screening and or treatment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.