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What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a type of liver infection caused by a virus termed hepatitis A (HAV). For clarity, the disease will be termed hepatitis A while the viral cause will be termed HAV. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not cause chronic disease in contrast to some other viral causes of hepatitis. Antibodies produced during infection give life-long protection against the disease; there is an effective vaccine against HAV. Rarely, hepatitis may lead to liver failure and death.
Is hepatitis A contagious?
Hepatitis A is very contagious. People can be contagious even before symptoms appear. However, the numbers of individuals diagnosed with hepatitis A has been decreasing since the vaccine against HAV was introduced in 1995. The vaccine is effective in adults and children.
How will I know if I have hepatitis A?
Symptoms, if they occur, start about 2 to 6 weeks after exposure to HAV. About 80% of adults have symptoms (see below) while children seldom show symptoms. Symptoms of hepatitis A may include the following:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Jaundice (yellowish color to skin and/or eyes
- Joint pain
Symptoms develop over a few days and in mild infections, last about 4 to 6 weeks with more severe infections lasting about 6 months. Your physician can diagnose hepatitis A by your history, physical exam, and blood tests.
Quick GuideHepatitis in Pictures: What Puts You at Risk?
How is hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A spreads person to person, and by indirect spread. Fecal - oral, sexual contact, and contaminated food or water can be sources of HAV that causes the disease. Common sources that have HAV contamination are
- ice, and
- untreated water.
How will I know if I am cured of hepatitis A?
In general, once symptoms of hepatitis A begin to abate, individuals are considered to be non-contagious; resolution of the infection results in a cure and life-long immunity to the disease. Appropriate vaccination (usually 2 shots 6 months apart), can also give long-term immunity to the disease.
When should I contact a doctor about hepatitis A?
If you have recently been exposed to a source of HAV and are unsure if you are vaccinated, contact your health-care professional, as it is possible to get vaccine or even immunoglobulin treatment to prevent the disease and/or its symptoms.
If you have the disease, contact your health-care professional for symptomatic treatment methods (for example, diet changes, avoiding alcohol, certain drugs) to help prevent HAV spread to family and friends. Some individuals have more severe symptoms and may need to be hospitalized.
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Signs and symptoms of the more serious causes include dehydration, bloody or black tarry stools, severe abdominal pain, pain with no urination or painful urination.
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Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is an inherited disorder caused by mutations in the SERPINA1 gene. People with the condition are at risk for developing serious lung and liver disease. Symptoms and signs of lung disease caused by this condition include:
The earliest symptoms and signs of lung disease usually develop between 20 and 50 years of age, and are
- The reduced ability to exercise
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) following mild activity
Other symptoms and signs of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are:
- Rapid heartbeat when going from sitting to standing
- Recurring respiratory infections
- Unintentional weight loss
Lung disease: People with this condition often develop emphysema, with symptoms of a hacking cough, barrel-shaped chest, and difficulty breathing. If you have this condition and smoke or are exposed to tobacco smoke, it accelerates the appearance of emphysema symptoms and lung damage.
Liver disease: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency also cause liver disease in some people with the condition, that include liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, an abnormally large liver (hepatomegaly), liver failure, and hepatitis. Liver damage from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency causes symptom of a swollen abdomen, swollen legs or feet, and jaundice.
Treatment of AATD depends upon the severity of symptoms. FDA approved drug for AATD is an orphan product called alpha-1-proteinase inhibitor (human), sold under the brand name "Prolastin."
Hepatitis AHepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A (HAV, Hep A) is one type of liver disease caused by a virus. Since hepatitis A is a virus, it can pass from person to person from eating or drinking contaminated food or coming into contact with contaminated materials containing the virus. Symptoms of hepatitis A include stomach pain, diarrhea, dark yellow urine, jaundice, and more. There is a vaccine to prevent contracting hepatitis A.
Hepatitis BThe hepatitis B virus (HBV, hep B) is a unique, coated DNA virus belonging to the Hepadnaviridae family of viruses. The course of the virus is determined primarily by the age at which the infection is acquired and the interaction between the virus and the body's immune system. Successful treatment is associated with a reduction in liver injury and fibrosis (scarring), a decreased likelihood of developing cirrhosis and its complications, including liver cancer, and a prolonged survival.
Hepatitis CHepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is usually spread by blood transfusion, hemodialysis, and needle sticks, especially with intravenous drug abuse. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and fever. Chronic hepatitis C may be cured in most individuals with drugs that target specific genomes of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis ImmunizationsHepatitis A and hepatitis B are the two most commnon viruses that infect the liver. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B can be prevented and treated with immunizations (vaccinations) such as Havrix, Vaqta, Twinrix, Comvax, Pediarix, and hepatitis b immune globulin (HBIG).
Hepatitis SlideshowWhat is hepatitis? Hepatitis A, B, and C spread in different ways, causing mild to serious effects on the liver. Learn about hepatitis symptoms and available vaccines to prevent hepatitis infection.
Hepatitis Risk SlideshowSee how Hepatitis types A, B and C are trasmitted through issues such as poor hygiene, contamination, sexual contact and more.
Is Hepatitis C ContagiousHepatitis C or hep C causes acute and chronic liver disease. Hep C is a form of liver disease with symptoms like:
- nausea and vomiting,
- anorexia, and
- abdominal discomfort.
Jaundice in Adults
Jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) in adults may be caused by a variety of medical diseases or conditions. Some cases of jaundice can be managed at home with a doctor's supervision, while other causes of jaundice may be life-threatening. Symptoms of jaundice are:
- Yellow skin
- Yellowing of the whites of the eyes
- Pale colored stools
- Dark urine
- Itchy skin
- Rectal bleeding
Treatment of jaundice is focused on the disease or condition that is causing jaundice.
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Viral HepatitisHepatitis is most often viral, due to infection with one of the hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, E, F (not confirmed), and G) or another virus (such as those that cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus disease). The main nonviral causes of hepatitis are alcohol and drugs. Many patients infected with hepatitis A, B, and C have few or no symptoms of illness. For those who do develop symptoms of viral hepatitis, the most common are flu- like symptoms including: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, weakness, tiredness, and aching in the abdomen. Treatment of viral hepatitis is dependant on the type of hepatitis.