Viral hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver that is caused by viral infection—typically from either the hepatitis B virus or the hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis B refers to inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can be spread through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids of someone who already has the infection. Following infection, one may experience flu-like symptoms or jaundice. However, people infected with the virus may experience no symptoms at all.
In most adult cases, the body is able to completely fight off the infection within a period of weeks or months and no further treatment is needed. If the body is unable to do so, the condition becomes known as chronic hepatitis (as opposed to acute hepatitis).
Treatment of Hepatitis B
Chronic hepatitis B can lead to significant cirrhosis—or scarring—of the liver as well as certain forms of liver cancer. Treatment for those with the chronic condition typically includes medication to suppress the effects of the virus and thereby reduce damage to the liver. If the organ becomes too damaged, transplantation can become necessary.
Hepatitis C refers to inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is most commonly spread through contact with the blood of someone who is already infected—which can occur, for example, by the injection of illicit drugs using shared needles. Following infection, some people develop flu-like symptoms, but most experience no symptoms whatsoever. This often leaves hepatitis C undetected.
As with hepatitis B, there exist both acute and chronic versions of the disorder. However, unlike hepatitis B, most adults infected with hepatitis C develop the chronic condition. This can lead to extensive cirrhosis as well as liver cancer. Often, patients do not present with symptoms until the liver has already been significantly damaged.
Treatment of Hepatitis C
Once hepatitis C is diagnosed, treatment typically includes medication to suppress the virus and help remove it from the blood as much as possible. This aims to avert or at least slow the process of cirrhosis. If a patient’s liver becomes or is already too damaged, however, he or she may be a candidate for transplantation. In fact, hepatitis C is the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States.
We Can Help
For additional assistance from an outreach liaison, please contact:
Sharyn Kreitzer, MSW
Senior Outreach Liaison
Tel: 212-731-RMTI (7684)
Adult Liver Diseases, Liver/Bile Duct Surgery, and Liver Transplantation
Pediatric Liver Diseases/Liver Transplantation Program
Kidney/Pancreas Transplantation Program
Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplantation Program
The Zweig Family Center for Living Donation