Friday, July 27, 2012

World Hepatitis Day

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By Diane Forrest, RN

Back in the 1980's there was a young girl around 2 years old named Molly.  Her family went to my church, and her skin and eyes were very yellow.  She was born with liver damage, and I can remember having fund raisers to raise money for a transplant.  This was 30 years ago.  She was able to have the transplant and immediately her skin and eye color returned to normal and she was able to live a normal life.  My uncle, who taught her in Jr. High, told me she was married 10 years ago, and her parents still live in my old home town.

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World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to focus on specific actions such as: Strengthening prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases; Increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunization programs; and coordinating a global response to hepatitis to increase access to treatment.

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Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E can cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer. These viruses constitute a major global health risk with an estimated 350 million people being chronically infected with hepatitis B and an estimated 170 million people being chronically infected with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver. It is not a condition, but is often used to refer to a viral infection of the liver.

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Hepatitis can be caused by:
  • Immune cells in the body attacking the liver and causing autoimmune hepatitis
  • Infections from viruses (such as hepatitis A, B, or C), bacteria, or parasites
  • Liver damage from alcohol, poisonous mushrooms, or other poisons
  • Medications, such as an overdose of acetaminophen, which can be deadly
  • Hepatitis may start and get better quickly (acute hepatitis), or cause long-term disease (chronic hepatitis). In some instances, it may lead to liver damage, liver failure, or even liver cancer.

How severe hepatitis is depends on many factors, including the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is usually short-term and does not lead to chronic liver problems.

The symptoms of hepatitis include:
  • Abdominal pain or distention
  • Breast development in males
  • Dark urine and pale or clay-colored stools
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, usually low-grade
  • General itching
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

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This can be diagnosed with a physical examination showing yellow skin and eyes, fluid in the stomach or enlarged liver.  Blood tests and liver ultra sounds can also confirm the diagnosis.

If not treated, hepatitis can cause cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and even liver failure that can lead to death.  Today is World Hepatitis Day, for more information about hepatitis and ways you can help spread the word, click on this site:

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