Illinois Medical Center  •  1001 Main Street - Suite 500A  •  Peoria, Illinois 61606

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Hepatitis A, B and C

All three types of Hepatitis (A, B and C) are viral infections of the liver. It becomes inflamed, tender and sometimes swollen. Hepatitis A is the least serious, while Hepatitis C is the most serious.

Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.

Hepatitis A
This is caused by the hepatitis A virus, which can be spread by contact with infected bowel movements. An infected person may pass hepatitis A to others by not washing his or her hands, especially after using the bathroom. You can get the virus from:

  • food handled by an infected person,
  • water contaminated with sewage or
  • shellfish from contaminated waters.

Hepatitis B
This is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread by direct contact with body fluids of an infected person. In some cases, carriers don’t have any symptoms – they are called asymptomatic carriers. You can get the virus from:

  • having unprotected sex with an infected person,
  • sharing needles for drug injection with a carrier,
  • getting a body part pierced or a permanent tattoo with non-sterile equipment,
  • being exposed to blood at work if you are a healthcare worker or
  • transfer from mother to baby if she is infected when the child is born.

Because of improved blood and transplant screening methods, it is now rare to get hepatitis B from a blood transfusion or transplant.

Hepatitis C
This is caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is spread by direct contact with body fluids of an infected person. In some cases, carriers don’t have any symptoms – they are called asymptomatic carriers. You can get the virus from:

  • having unprotected sex with an infected person,
  • sharing needles for drug injection with a carrier,
  • getting a body part pierced or a permanent tattoo with non-sterile equipment,
  • being exposed to blood at work if you are a healthcare worker or
  • transfer from mother to baby if she is infected when the child is born.

Because of improved blood and transplant screening methods, it is now rare to get hepatitis C from a blood transfusion or transplant.

You may not have any symptoms of hepatitis until several weeks or months after contracting it. Or, you may never show symptoms and have it discovered during routine healthcare or blood tests. If you have symptoms of hepatitis, they may include:

  • yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice),
  • tiredness,
  • dark urine,
  • abdominal pain,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea and/or vomiting,
  • smokers may lose their taste for cigarettes,
  • bowel movements that are looser than normal and/or whitish or yellow,
  • tenderness or pain in the area of your liver (just below the ribs on your right side) and joint pain.

Your physician will take a detailed medical history and examine you, including evaluating your skin and eyes for signs of jaundice, and checking your abdomen for swelling or tenderness in your liver. You will also be given blood tests.

If your provider thinks you may have chronic hepatitis or serious liver damage, or if the diagnosis is uncertain, you may have a liver biopsy.

For hepatitis A and B, treatment is usually limited to rest and avoiding alcohol for 6 months. However, if it becomes chronic (lasts more than 6 months), it is probably not hepatitis A and you may need treatment with medications.

Hepatitis C patients may not need treatment, either, other than rest and avoiding alcohol for 6 months. However, some patients may require antiviral drugs and, if liver damage is significant, a transplant may be required.

Your healthcare provider will likely recommend hepatitis vaccinations after treatment is completed.

If you have used illegal IV drugs, had unprotected sex with multiple partners or had a blood transfusion before 1992, you may be at increased risk to acquire hepatitis B or C. Additionally, those of Asian or Pacific Island descent are at an increased risk.

To avoid putting others at risk if you have hepatitis B or C, you should not share personal items with others. These include razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers and other personal care items.

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Illinois Gastroenterology Institute

Illinois Medical Center  •  1001 Main Street – Suite 500A  •  Peoria, Illinois 61606  •  Phone: (309) 672-4980  •  Fax: (309) 671-2931

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