Hepatitis in all its forms (A, B and C) is a liver disease. Each is a distinct illness – some that are mild and go away on their own, and others that can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
At Central Maine Healthcare, our board-certified gastroenterologists and infectious disease specialists successfully treat people with hepatitis every day. If you’re living with any form of the disease, we’ll work with you to create a personalized treatment plan to help you manage your condition and live a full and healthy life.
Central Maine Healthcare’s liver and digestive health experts provide specialized care for all forms of hepatitis:
We hear less about Hepatitis A than other varieties. Unlike B or C, Hep A is an inflammatory disease, caused by a virus. It doesn’t always bring symptoms, but when it does, they’re obvious: Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, diarrhea and fatigue.
Hepatitis A is contagious; you can get it by ingesting contaminated food, drinks or ice. A blood test provides the best diagnosis, but keep in mind, Hep A is preventable with good hygiene and a vaccine.
Hepatitis B is an infection, so it’s inherently more serious than Hep A. If it’s not treated promptly it can cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis, which eventually renders the liver useless), liver failure and cancer. This form of hepatitis is transferred through body fluids and unprotected sex—but it usually lasts for only a few months, and once it’s treated, you’re immune for the rest of your life!
You can’t mistake the symptoms: light-colored feces, fatigue that lasts for weeks and stomach distress that doesn’t stop. A blood test provides the diagnosis; with a vaccine and minor lifestyle changes (such as giving up acetaminophen), the illness usually ends. If it’s chronic, which happens in some cases, you might be given a drug called Interferon alfa to boost your immune system, or other medications.
In the past, people diagnosed with hepatitis C, an infectious disease caused by a virus, had to accept the fact that cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, still a possible complication) and eventual liver cancer and liver failure were inevitable.
Now, there’s good news. Hepatitis C is more much management – and even curable – with a regimen of medications taken daily for up to six months.
Hep C doesn’t always display symptoms. In fact, an estimated four million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C and don’t even know it. It’s the most common version of hepatitis, spread through contaminated blood. When symptoms do appear, they’re the kind that could indicate a number of illnesses: bruising or bleeding easily, poor appetite, itchy skin, swelling in legs, confusion, drowsiness, spidery blood vessels, dark urine or fatigue.
Most people who get Hepatitis C first get what’s called “acute” Hep C, which is misleading because it’s rarely symptomatic and often doesn’t continue past that stage. But if you do notice the symptoms listed above, they almost always indicate something and could point to hepatitis, so it’s a good idea to contact one of our specialists to get the answers you need.