If you hear that someone has hepatitis, you may automatically think it is because of drug abuse. You must keep an open mind because that is not always true, there are actually 5 different types of hepatitis that is possible to acquire. Whenever a word ends with “-itis” it simply means inflammation. Therefore hepatitis is the medical term that refers to inflammation of the cells in the liver.
Hepatitis can be caused by a virus or toxin, or it can occur as a secondary infection with another virus that has made itself at home in your body. Your hepatitis condition will be classified as either acute or chronic. If your hepatitis proves to be a chronic, long-term, condition it could result in cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is permanent scarring of the liver from persistent inflammation over time. The most common type of hepatitis actually occurs from a virus. Along with their routes of transmission and risk factors, the five major categories of viral hepatitis include:
Ø Hepatitis A virus (HAV)
· Transmitted by the fecal-oral route, which means it is spread by stool that comes into contact with mucous membranes of your mouth. For example, this could be a worker that prepares food who does not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom.
· Risk factors for this type include ingestion of food or water that is contaminated, or having close personal contact with an individual who is infected.
Ø Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
· Transmitted by blood.
· Risk factors include engaging in unprotected sex with an infected individual, infants who are born to infected mothers, contact with infected blood, or injection drug users.
Ø Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
· Transmitted by blood.
· Risk factors include drug abuse and any sexual contact.
Ø Hepatitis D virus (HDV)
· Transmitted as a co-infection with HBV, meaning it may also occur if the individual has hepatitis B.
· Risk factors include being an injection drug user and having unprotected sex with infected individuals.
Ø Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
· Transmitted also by the fecal-oral route as mentioned above.
· Risk factors include ingestion of contaminated food or water.
Let us now explain further how toxic and drug-induced hepatitis may also occur. An example of drug-induced hepatitis would be overuse of acetaminophen, which is the fancy name for Tylenol that is used more frequently than it probably should be in some of us for everyday aches and pains. Excessive and prolonged use of Tylenol could result in liver damage, or hepatitis. Other viruses can also cause hepatitis to occur such as shingles, for example. Overall, after exposure to a virus or toxin occurs, the liver becomes enlarged due to the inflammatory process. Then, as the disease runs its course there will be an increase in inflammation and other tissue in the liver will begin to die off because it can’t keep up with the repairs it needs to make. Once the disease progresses to the point where cells and tissues begin to die off, blow flow then begins to become impaired. Following are signs and symptoms that you may experience if you have acquired a type of hepatitis:
Ø Flu-like symptoms (feeling tired, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, joint pain)
Ø Dark-colored urine
Ø Clay-colored stool
Ø Jaundice (yellowing of the skin/eyes)
In addition to the various signs and symptoms, a variety of laboratory tests may be performed to aid in your diagnosis and pinpoint which type of hepatitis you have. If you contract hepatitis, your symptoms may be very vague, which may cause you to ignore them. Or you may not have any signs or symptoms at all, which is dangerous and could cause you to be unaware of your infection and putting those around you at an unknown risk. Total Home Health professionals are aware of how serious the hepatitis condition can be. We hold strong beliefs that promotion of your health could lead to prevention of the condition entirely and/or prevent it from worsening or being spread to others. There are several ways we will work as a team to promote your health to prevent this disease while we take care of you, including:
Ø Providing you with education related to transmission and exposure to the different types of hepatitis.
Ø Providing you with information related to appropriate vaccinations that you are recommended to receive to prevent hepatitis.
Ø Educating you on safe and correct injection practices, including how to properly dispose of syringes in your home.
Ø Providing education to your loved ones about the type of hepatitis that you have and how they can protect themselves. For example, if you are incontinent and you have hepatitis A, which is spread via the fecal-oral route, those in direct care should wear personal protective equipment such as a gown, gloves, and/or goggles.
Ø Teaching and reinforcement of proper hand hygiene techniques for prevention in the home.
Total Home Health has a program that you will undoubtedly find suits your needs related to hepatitis. You may feel like an outcast and hopeless when you are diagnosed, but Total Home Health will make you feel like you belong all day, every day. Our nursing professionals will work closely in conjunction with other professionals on your health care team to always provide you with the most safe and effective care no matter what!