Viral Hepatitis

What is Viral Hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis is an infection of the liver that may be due to several different viruses including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Hepatitis D and E also exist, but type A, B, and C are more commonly seen. There are also other viruses such as Cytomegalovirus or Epstein Barr virus which can infect the liver and cause illness

What are the symptoms of Viral Hepatitis?
All forms of viral hepatitis share many of the same symptoms including:
  • General feeling of tiredness
  • Sore muscles
  • Sore joints
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark colored urine
  • Jaundice (e.g. yellowish appearance of eyes and skin)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Possibility of fever
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
Some people show no symptoms from hepatitis until it develops into a more serious illness such as advanced liver disease or cirrhosis. Some people will undergo an acute case of Hepatitis, lasting up to several months. A small number of people develop chronic Hepatitis, which must be monitored by a professional to ensure that it does not progress into more serious problems such as cirrhosis. Fortunately a vaccine is available for Hepatitis B, and children are currently vaccinated against this virus during their early years.

How does one get Viral Hepatitis?
The mode of infection with Viral Hepatitis differs depending on the type of virus involved. Hepatitis A can be spread through an infected person’s stool and therefore via contaminated food, whereas Hepatitis B and C are typically caused by some form of sexual contact, shared drug paraphernalia, or through contact with an infected person’s blood. The other forms of Viral Hepatitis such as Epstein Barr virus can be transmitted like the virus of the common cold.

How is Viral Hepatitis diagnosed?
Dr. Khorrami will first thoroughly examine your medical records and will perform a physical exam to look for any signs of liver disease. Afterwards, he will recommend that you to undergo a series of blood tests. Typically, a blood test is all that is needed to diagnose any type of viral hepatitis.

If Dr. Khorrami suspects that you may have a chronic case of viral hepatitis, then you may need to have a liver biopsy performed. This is a procedure in which a small tissue sample of your liver is taken for further examination. This procedure may require you to fast for a period of time before the test but it is generally painless, as anesthetics are used to numb the biopsy area.

How is Viral Hepatitis treated?
Treatment of viral hepatitis depends on the type of virus involved and the chronicity of the disease. There are medication regimens available that can help permanently eliminate chronic hepatitis B and C from the body. On the other hand, some forms of viral hepatitis such as that caused by hepatitis A or cytomegalovirus are usually self limited and without any major symptoms, and may not require any specific treatment.

If viral hepatitis leads to advanced liver disease or liver failure, then a liver transplantation may need to be considered as a last resort. This option requires that one carefully weighs the risks and benefits of this complex surgical procedure. Liver transplantation is not the right choice for every patient, and the number of those who need a liver transplant currently exceeds the number of organs available.

Patients with advanced liver disease from viral hepatitis have a higher chance of developing liver cancer. Dr. Khorrami may advise these patients to undergo periodic non-invasive ultrasound examinations to detect liver cancer at its earliest stages. Ultrasounds are able to show Dr. Khorrami the size of the liver and whether or not any cancerous tumors are present.

Dietary Habits
Since viral hepatitis is a disease which affects the liver, it is important to refrain from certain medications (e.g. acetaminophen) or alcohol. Repeated alcohol usage in people with viral hepatitis may result in a higher chance of developing a serious liver problem such as cirrhosis. Talk with Dr. Khorrami about certain foods and vitamins that you should take.

Discuss Your Options with Dr. Khorrami
Dr. Khorrami has been in practice since 1996 as a double-board certified gastroenterologist, has experienced a variety of patient cases, and is well trained to solve your digestive problems. Get in touch to learn about viral hepatitis and how you can successfully prevent or treat it.

Source contains material from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).


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About Dr. Khorrami

Dr. Payman Khorrami is a UCLA graduate, has been in practice since 1996, and is double board certified. Undergraduate Education at University of California, Berkeley, Medical School at University of California, San Francisco, Internal Medicine Training at University of California, San Diego Read Full Bio