Each strain of hepatitis has short-term and long-term effects. There are three common strains of hepatitis, a disease that causes the liver to become inflamed and swollen. Strain A, rare in developed nations, can cause vomiting, fever, and fatigue in the short term, and, rarely, permanent long-term liver damage. Most people recover from strain B without medical intervention, while strain C, the only lifelong strain, can cause serious liver damage and liver failure.
Hepatitis A is contracted through contact with contaminated fecal matter. It takes very little fecal matter to spread the disease; therefore, thoroughly washing hands after using the restroom is vital. The disease can also be spread through sexual contact. Risk factors include poor personal cleanliness, swimming in contaminated water, being in close contact with contaminated people, and traveling through nations that have concentrations of infected residents.
Immediate effects of hepatitis A include vomiting, fever, and itching skin. Long-term effects are rare; however, in some cases the patient is left with permanent liver damage. In addition, once a person has hepatitis A, B, or C, he or she is never again allowed to donate blood products.
Liver tests are typically ordered when a patient presents with symptoms of hepatitis A. Treatment for the effects of hepatitis A include bed rest and eating properly. The disease runs its course in two to eight weeks. A vaccination and later booster provide 10 years of protection.
Hepatitis B is contracted through contact with a contaminated person or contaminated foods. A vaccine for people in high-risk groups, such as healthcare workers, daycare workers, and foster parents, is available. In most cases, the effects of hepatitis B resolve without incident. Bed rest and fluids are recommended treatments. Long-term effects of hepatitis include chronic liver failure and cirrhosis of the liver.
Treatment of long-term hepatitis B is with interferon injections. In severe cases, a liver transplant can slow the progression of the disease, though it typically returns several years following the transplant. Most people recover fully, and all who have had hepatitis B develop a lifetime immunity from getting it again. Hepatitis B patients are told to limit their alcohol intake and fatty food consumption for life.
The most serious form of the disease is hepatitis C. Early effects of hepatitis C are often confused with other illnesses, such as the flu. Damage from hepatitis C, which can take several decades to appear, includes liver damage or liver failure.
This strain of hepatitis is contracted by contact with the blood of an infected person. The most common transmission path is the sharing of syringes and needles during intravenous drug use. There is a smaller risk of contracting it during sex; however, that risk increases if sexual intercourse occurs during menstruation. Sharing razors with an infected person also poses a small but measurable risk.
The effects of hepatitis C are different for each person. Some never experience early signs, and the disease is discovered during routine blood work. Others have early signs, including lack of appetite, dark urine, and diarrhea. These symptoms subside after several weeks, at which time chronic hepatitis C sets in.
Although there has been no vaccine for hepatitis C, prevention measures include never sharing personal items, including razors and toothbrushes. Intravenous drug users should never share needles, spoons, or syringes. Using condoms during sex is also recommended. Treatment includes chemotherapy, interferon injections, or liver transplant. Like hepatitis B,hepatitis C typically returns several years after a transplant.
Out of every 100 people with hepatitis C, 60 to 70 will eventually develop chronic liver disease. Another five to 20 will go on to get cirrhosis of the liver. Fifteen to 20 patients will never require treatment. Hepatitis C is a lifetime infection and can be passed to others.