Ever find yourself feeling tired for an unknown reason? Many diseases in our world today have tell-tale symptoms like coughing, sneezing, fevers, or a rash. Hepatitis often goes silent.
According to the CDC, 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis and don’t even know it! Being the leading cause of liver cancer and transplantation, it’s important to educate yourself about this silent killer. My face-to-face experiences with hepatitis may help you save a life.
The ABC’s of Hepatitis
In short, hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. This is commonly associated with three different viral causes known as hepatitis A, B, or C. Hepatitis can also be caused by alcoholism and drug abuse. Contraction of hepatitis A is associated with contact with the stool of an infected person, including poor water sanitation while traveling. Hepatitis B can be contracted through an infected person’s blood, semen, or body fluids while hepatitis C can be contracted through blood or through birth. Both hepatitis A and B have vaccinations while hepatitis C does not. Please consult your physician or pharmacist for proper vaccine scheduling for hepatitis, for it could save your life. Vaccinations are the single best preventative treatment for hepatitis.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of hepatitis may not be noticeable until the advanced stages of the disease. Since the virus affects your liver, the main symptoms are typical of any liver disease. Symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dark-colored urine, pale clay colored stool, stomach pain, and yellowing of the skin/eyes. If hepatitis A or B is contracted you’re likely to experience flu like symptoms and early onset including feeling tired, achy, and slight fever. Hepatitis C symptoms may take years to develop.
Personal Experiences and Tips
My experience as a pharmacy intern in the ICU of a major hospital brought me face-to-face with cases of hepatitis numerous times. In my presence, I’ve experienced everything from mild cases to more severe with symptoms ranging from flu-like fatigue to severe jaundice. Seeing jaundice for the first time was an experience I will never forget! Remember that hepatitis is a very treatable condition. Physicians are there to help you, no matter how you may have contracted the disease. Do not be embarrassed to seek treatment and do not hesitate to speak to your physician if you have concerns about the disease.
In my personal life, a close family member with a history of drug abuse has been fighting hepatitis for years. He was diagnosed after a routine visit to his physician. Seeing his physician for an upset stomach had led to a diagnosis of in inflamed liver. Further testing revealed that he had a sure case with chronic hepatitis C. Upon speaking to him now, it’s simply a matter of taking his medications and avoiding alcohol! Most days he even forgets he has hepatitis!
Depending on the type of hepatitis you have, treatment options differ. For hepatitis A, simple bed rest and pain meditations may help. Hepatitis B and C are both treated with certain medications. Ask your pharmacist or physician for more information!
All in all, hepatitis can be a silent condition with sometimes no symptoms. Please keep up with routine physicals and vaccinations!
Sources: National Institute of Health, Center for Disease Control (CDC)