Viral hepatitis affects millions of people in this country, but many don’t even know they have the disease. There are somewhere between 2.5 to 4.7 million Americans living with hepatitis today. The high number of infected but unaware Americans puts them at risk to contract cancer or serious liver disease, as well as unwittingly potentially transmitting the virus to others.
As an independent specialty pharmacy, Banks Apothecary is committed to helping clinicians serve patients in the treatment of this serious disease. Let’s explore the types of hepatitis and the treatment options available.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a type of liver infection. The liver is a large organ just above and to the side of the stomach. The liver performs many critical functions that affect how your body metabolizes nutrients and heals itself. The liver is responsible for:
- Bile production that keeps digestion running smoothly
- Breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Enzyme activation, which is important for bodily functions
- Excreting bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and medications
- Glycogen, minerals, and vitamins storage
- Helping with blood clotting and blood proteins
- Filtering bodily toxins
The liver is a critical organ for filtering the blood and helping people fight infection. An inflamed or damaged liver, such as with hepatitis disease, makes it harder for a person to process nutrients and recover from illness.
What are the Types of Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is commonly caused by a virus, but it can also be caused by alcohol use, drugs, or certain medical disorders.
There are five types of viral hepatitis, classified as A, B, C, D, and E. In the U.S., the most common types of hepatitis are A, B, and C.
Hepatitis A is found in the blood and stool of infected people. It’s spread when someone ingests a microscopic amount from an infected person, typically by eating or drinking. Hepatitis A causes fatigue, jaundice, nausea, stomach pain that can last up to two months. Fortunately, hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine.
Hepatitis B is found in blood, semen, or other bodily fluids of infected people. The virus can spread through sexual contact, sharing needles or other drug-injection equipment, or even from a mother to her baby during birth. Many people have this illness without symptoms. If symptoms occur, hepatitis B causes fatigue, jaundice, nausea, poor appetite, and stomach pain. Like hepatitis A, a vaccine exists to prevent this disease.
Hepatitis C is spread through the blood of an infected person. The majority of cases today are caused by sharing needles or other equipment used when injecting drugs. Hepatitis C can either be a short- or long-term, chronic illness. The chronic form of the disease can cause serious and life-threatening illness such as liver cancer or cirrhosis. There is no vaccine for this disease.
Hepatitis D is commonly called “delta hepatitis,” and it only infects people already carrying the hepatitis B virus. Like the other forms of viral hepatitis, it is transmitted by blood and bodily fluids. Hepatitis D can also be short-term or chronic, and causes severe illness that can lead to serious liver damage and death.
Hepatitis E is transmitted in the stool of an infected person. It can spread when a microscopic amount is ingested. This is a problem in developing countries with an unsafe drinking water supply. In the U.S., the disease can be transmitted through raw or undercooked pork, shellfish, venison, or wild boar meat. Many people have no symptoms of hepatitis E. If they do, the symptoms of hepatitis E include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, poor appetite, and stomach pain.
Once you’ve contracted hepatitis, can these illnesses be treated? How can an online pharmacy such as Bank’s Apothecary help you and your doctor respond to these serious diseases?
Which Hepatitis Can Be Treated?
All forms of hepatitis can be treated but only the A and C form of the disease can be “cured” or can go away on their own. Hepatitis B patients may also recover on their own with no long-term liver damage. In rare cases, however, people infected with hepatitis B can develop liver disease that can include cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure. Hepatitis D can be prevented with the vaccine that also prevents hepatitis B. As for hepatitis E, there is no specific antiviral medication to treat or cure this disease.
Hepatitis C is the most common form of the disease in the United States. Bank’s Apothecary Specialty Pharmacy provides the medications to treat this illness.
Typically, we see acute hepatitis C occurring in our patients within the first six months after exposure to the virus that causes the disease. Up to 25% of patients can recover from this virus without treatment, however 75-85% of patients develop a chronic or lifelong infection that can lead to liver damage, cancer, and liver failure. However, many people don’t experience noticeable symptoms from this infection, which makes it often undiagnosed, and easier to spread. Medications such as Harvoni, Olysio, Ribavirin, and Viekira Pak can help your doctor beat the hepatitis C infection.
How is Hepatitis Diagnosed?
Typically, viral hepatitis is diagnosed by your symptoms and a blood test. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and may also order a sonogram or CAT scan along with a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Some of the symptoms of the hepatitis infection can include:
- Clay-colored or pale stools
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite and nausea
- Low-grade fever
- Jaundice, or the yellowing of skin and eyes
- Stomach pain
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor for a blood test. Over the past few years, some excellent treatments have been developed for both hepatitis B and C. Researchers are working hard to develop new and better treatments. Bank’s Apothecary is committed to working closely with primary and specialty physicians to offer our customers the best treatments to combat hepatitis and many other diseases. We offer the highest quality care at every level of our business. Contact us to find out how we can help.