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Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by a variety of triggers. This can range from toxins, such as alcohol, or fat deposition, or viruses. Viruses are the most common infectious cause of hepatitis, which is usually denoted by different letters (e.g. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, etc.)
When your liver is inflamed, it can cause pain, impair your liver function, and overall make you feel pretty sick. If your liver function is impaired enough, it can stop performing its normal job of filtration, and cause a buildup of toxins in the blood. If left untreated, it could lead to delirium, coma, or even death. It doesn’t always have to be that noticeable, though. In fact, most cases of chronic hepatitis go unnoticed, and lie dormant for years before getting diagnosed.
If you have pain in the right, upper part of your belly, or if your skin becomes increasingly yellow in color, those are specific signs of liver injury, such as hepatitis. However, most folks with hepatitis may not have those specific signs. It may be picked up by raised liver enzymes in the blood, which is tested in your routine blood tests performed by your Primary care (PCP). However, the most definitive way to investigate for infection with hepatitis C, for example, is to run a blood test specifically for a hepatitis C antibody. This can be done at your PCP’s office, along with your routine blood work, but it’s important to know it’s a separate test that isn’t automatically done, unless certain criteria are met. The CDC recommends everyone born between 1945-1965 get tested for hepatitis C, in addition to anyone who is on dialysis, has received a blood transfusion prior to 1992, or has suffered a needle stick from a person infected with hepatitis C.
Depending on what is the cause of your hepatitis, your treatment will vary. For example, fi it’s induced by alcohol, decreasing or ceasing your alcohol consumption would be the best start. If it’s caused by a virus, such as hepatitis C, treatment with antiviral medications under the care of an infectious disease specialist would be the best approach. Be sure to ask your primary care provider if you have any questions about hepatitis, particularly to determine whether or not you may benefit from further testing.
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