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Hepatitis is a virus that causes the liver to become inflamed. There are five known types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D and E, however, only types A, B and C are common in the United States. The treatment a patient receives for hepatitis depends on the type of hepatitis being treated. Each type of hepatitis has a different treatment protocol. Each has its own hepatitis symptoms.

Hepatitis A is spread by person to person contact in restaurants or other settings. This is the type of hepatitis we usually read about in the newspaper. Although it can make adults quite ill, there is no treatment required because hepatitis A usually clears up on its own after several weeks, leaving the patient with lifetime immunity. Hepatitis B, the most serious form of the disease, is transmitted by infected blood or body fluids. This type can be spread by sexual activity or contaminated needles. If the patients system cannot clear the virus in its acute stage, it becomes chronic.

There is no treatment for acute hepatitis B. Two different approved treatments exist for chronic Hepatitis B, interferon and lamivudine. The most successful treatment is 4-6 months of interferon, which has a 35% success rate…

Hepatitis C is the most serious form Hepatitis, is also spread by needles, sexual contact and from mothers to unborn children. It can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Interferon, alone and in combination with ribavirin, is used to treat Hepatitis C. Less than 40% of patients respond to treatment that may be given a second time. Because of its chronic nature, there are also many unproven, alternative treatments for Hepatitis C, the most common of which is the herb milk thistle.

Hepatitis D is usually a co-infection with Hepatitis B and is treated with interferon.

Hepatitis E is usually limited to travelers to developing countries. There is no known treatment. Vaccinations exist for Hepatitis A and B. The Hepatitis B vaccine also makes the patient immune to Hepatitis E. In all cases, the success rate with various treatments is relatively low, usually less than 40%. Regardless of type, the best protection against all forms of Hepatitis is cleanliness and the avoidance of risky behaviors where body fluids are exchange.


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