Hepatitis A. This type won't lead to long-term infection and usually doesn't cause any complications. Your liver heals in about 2 months. You can prevent it with a vaccine.
Hepatitis B. Most people recover from this type in 6 months. Sometimes, though, it causes a long-term infection that could lead to liver damage. Once you've got the disease, you can spread the virus even if you don't feel sick. You won't catch it if you get a vaccine.
Hepatitis C. Many people with this type don't have any symptoms. About 80% of those with the disease get a long-term infection. It can sometimes lead to cirrhosis, a scarring of the liver. There's no vaccine to prevent it.
How Do You Get Hepatitis A?
You get it from eating or drinking something that's got the virus in it.
How Do You Get Hepatitis B?
You can get it if you:
- Have sex with someone who's infected
- Share dirty needles when using illegal drugs
- Have direct contact with infected blood or the body fluids of someone who's got the disease
If you're pregnant and you've got hepatitis B, you could give the disease to your unborn child. If you deliver a baby who's got it, he needs to get treatment in the first 12 hours after birth.
How Do You Get Hepatitis C?
Just like hepatitis B, you can get this type by sharing needles and having contact with infected blood. You can also catch it by having sex with somebody who's infected, but that's less common.
If you had a blood transfusion before new screening protocols were put in place in 1992, you are at risk for hepatitis C. If not, the blood used in transfusions today is safe. It gets checked beforehand to make sure it's free of the virus that causes hepatitis B or C.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?
The most common symptoms for all three types are:
- Dark urine
- Stomach pain
- Yellowing of skin or eyes
- Pale or clay-colored stool
- Low-grade fever
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick to the stomach
- Lack of nutrition
If you have hepatitis B, you may also have achy joints.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms.
Can Hepatitis Be Treated?
If you have hepatitis A, your doctor will carefully see how well your liver is working, but there aren't any treatments to cure it.
There are several drugs that treat long-term hepatitis B, such as:
- Adefovir (Hepsera)
- Entecavir (Baraclude)
- Lamivudine ()
- Telbivudine (Tyzeka)
- Tenofovir (Viread)
For hepatitis C, some people improve if they get a combo of the drugs peginterferon alpha and ribavirin. But there are side effects to this treatment, including severe anemia (low red blood cells) and birth defects.
Your doctor may also suggest other drugs for hepatitis C, which cure more people and may be better tolerated, including: