For Teens: Understanding Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a disease that harms the
liver through inflammation. There are three main types of hepatitis viruses that can harm
the liver. Hepatitis A spreads through sexual contact or food or water contaminated with
feces. Types B and C spread through body fluids, sex, or infected needles. Hepatitis can be
treated, but the virus often stays in the body.
This is especially
true for Hepatitis B, which can be controlled but rarely cured.
C, however, is usually
Hepatitis A is usually acute-short term-meaning you usually get better without treatment
after a few weeks.In
some cases, hepatitis can lead to severe liver damage and even death. There is a vaccine to
help prevent hepatitis A and B. If you’re at risk, ask your healthcare provider about the
hepatitis vaccine. (Note: No vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis C.) Other types of
hepatitis can be caused by fat in the liver, alcohol, drugs, herbs, medicines, toxins, or
immune or genetic conditions.
What to look for
Hepatitis may not show symptoms for months, or even years, after the start of the disease. But over time, liver damage may cause serious health problems.
Early-stage symptoms can
include tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle aches, fever,
or clayed colored stools, and diarrhea.
Later-stage symptoms can
include yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), swollen legs and belly,
yellow urine, and internal bleeding.
Hepatitis A can be treated with
rest and support
until the infection goes away. It does not become chronic (long-term)
For types B and C,
the disease often
becomes chronic (long-term) and you will be referred to a special
healthcare provider. He or she can help you learn more about the disease and how to
manage it. You will also have checkups to make sure your liver is still working
If you don’t get treated
Hepatitis B and C can stay in the
body and keep damaging the liver. They also increase your risk of liver cancer. After
many years, a liver transplant may be
use and being overweight can worsen the liver disease so avoid alcohol and maintain a
Never share piercing, tattoo, or
drug needles. Hepatitis B and C can spread through infected needles. Never have
you feel you may have been exposed to Hepatitis B or C, it is important to also get
tested for HIV.
If you have another, nonviral hepatitis, see a specialist to help manage and treat your disease.