Originally published on UniversityMDs.com
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and Dr. Marina Roytman has defined hepatitis and provides facts on the complexities of the condition.
What is hepatitis?
“Hepa” in Latin means liver and ‘itis” means inflammation. So, “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Just like appendicitis means inflammation of the appendix.
What are common types of hepatitis?
There many causes of hepatitis including alcohol, fatty liver disease and viral (or infectious) hepatitis.
As far as infectious hepatitis the most common types are A, B and C. Hepatitis A is an acute infection which resolves without treatment in the vast majority of patients. Hepatitis B and C can become chronic and need to be closely managed by a liver specialist.
Are certain types of hepatitis preventable?
Virtually all types of hepatitis are preventable. Alcoholic hepatitis can be prevented by avoiding excessive alcohol consumption. Hepatitis related to fatty liver disease (NASH = non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) can be prevented by avoiding obesity, engaging in regular exercise, eating healthy and having tight control of diabetes and high cholesterol.
Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by a very safe and effective vaccine. Hepatitis C can be prevented by avoiding illegal drug use (especially intravenous and intranasal) and practicing safe sex. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
Viral hepatitis can be diagnosed via a series of blood tests. Non-infectious hepatitis diagnosis may require ultrasound and/or FibroScan in addition to the blood tests. Liver biopsy is rarely needed.
When should someone get tested for hepatitis?
Many different reasons: patients with obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol. Patients who consume alcohol excessively. Patients who use illegal drugs. Patients who come from other countries where prevalence of viral hepatitis is high. Pregnant mothers to prevent transmission to their babies. Babies born to mother with viral hepatitis. All patients with abnormal liver tests that are unexplained.