Other than jokes made at the expense of heavy drinkers, the liver is not one of the bodily members that gets much attention. While the heart, the brain and the reproductive system steal most of the media and fundraising thunder, the liver keeps plugging away as one of the busiest organs in the human body. Serving as a sort of central clearinghouse, the liver separates nutrients in food and drink from waste product, directing the former to the needy cells while tagging the latter for evacuation. Because the liver is so vital to life and good health, threats to its function must be treated with the utmost urgency. Among the worst threats comes from hepatitis.
Hepatitis: Three Kinds of Trouble
Put simply, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The result of three distinct viruses—hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C—symptoms appear very similar. Although highly contagious through human contact or tainted food, hepatitis A is the least problematic of the three. It is an acute infection that often resolves itself with little treatment, though some symptoms like fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, jaundice and vomiting may assert themselves.
Hepatitis B is more problematic. It can be contracted through sexual contact, bodily fluids, shared needles or maternal-fetal transmission. Its symptoms are similar to those of hepatitis A. Also like hepatitis A, hepatitis B can be an acute (time-restricted) affliction. Unlike A, however, B can become a chronic condition, lasting for over six months (particularly in young children). If this occurs, permanent damage to the liver may occur. The good news is that vaccinations are available for both A and B.
Hepatitis C is the most insidious of the three, since symptoms can take up to 20 years to make themselves known. Chronic in most cases, the hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with contaminated blood. Medical personnel, needle users and tattoo recipients are particularly vulnerable without taking great caution to avoid such contact. Liver damage can be major, and sometimes leads to liver cancer or liver failure. Effective medications have recently been developed for hepatitis C, replacing the weekly injections of old.
Vaccines for hepatitis A are recommended for children and for international travelers. The vaccination is administered in two doses, generally six months apart. Others who benefit from this regimen are adoptive parents with children from abroad; people with other chronic liver conditions; homosexual males; and people receiving clotting agent treatments.
Hepatitis B vaccinations are done in three phases, with the second administration a month after the first. The third shot ordinarily follows six months after the first. These shots are inserted directly into muscle. Most everyone advised to get the vaccine for A should also consider the B vaccine (there is a vaccine for both A and B for adults). Additional populations include kidney dialysis patients; those sexually active with multiple partners; correctional facility residents; and diabetics under the age of 60.
There are no vaccinations yet to prevent hepatitis C. However, there are improved medications to treat its symptoms.
The Best Course of Action
Do not wait for hepatitis to work itself out. As noted above, it can become chronic and do irreparable damage to the liver. Medical practices like Med Embassy are dedicated practitioners in hepatitis prevention, treatment and management. Its specialists in liver health and liver transplant have years of successful treatment to back their diagnoses, and travel abroad to bring healing and education to hepatitis sufferers. They not only provide immunization services, they give comprehensive care and convey needed knowledge to each and every patient.