If you have been diagnosed with a form of hepatitis, chances are good that your doctor has referred you to a specialist. A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating conditions that impact the intestinal system including the liver. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with hepatitis, here’s what you should know.
What are the warning signs of hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver. A viral infection is typically to blame for most types of hepatitis; however, autoimmune problems or heavy alcohol use can also lead to hepatitis.
The five main types of hepatitis are A, B, C, D, and E.
- Hepatitis A is acute
- Hepatitis B, C, and D are often persistent and chronic
- Hepatitis E is typically acute
How does someone develop hepatitis?
Hepatitis is contracted in several ways including,
- Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated water or food
- Hepatitis B is often transmitted through bodily fluids including blood and semen
- Hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact, coming in contact with infected bodily fluids, or through IV drug use
- Hepatitis D is transmitted through contact with infected blood (typically occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B)
- Hepatitis E is transmitted through contaminated water
What are the warning signs?
As many as half of people with hepatitis don’t even know that they have it. Some of the signs and symptoms include,
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Pale-colored stools
How is hepatitis treated?
Again, the type of hepatitis you have will determine how to best treat it. Acute viral forms of hepatitis such as hepatitis A will go away on their own, so treatment options may be geared toward easing your symptoms and making sure that you get enough rest. Those with more chronic forms will need ongoing management and treatment from a gastroenterologist. Your GI doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to prevent or at least slow liver damage for those with chronic hepatitis such as hepatitis B. Some patients may even require surgery.
If you have questions or concerns about hepatitis, don’t hesitate to talk with your gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is going to be an integral part of your treatment and recovery plan.