Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

What to Know About Hepatitis - its Treatment, and Prevention

Image of picture of a liver. Click to open a larger version of the image. Hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver. There are several types of the disease that are transmitted through different sources. (Courtesy of CDC)

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

A bad liver can be a potentially fatal problem.

The liver's primary function is to filter out toxic substances from your blood and to produce the essential proteins that allow the body to function.

But liver functions can be damaged or impaired - especially by unhealthy habits like excessive alcohol use, drug use or obesity.

In advance of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, we wanted to learn more about liver disease -- the different types, and how to prevent them and protect yourself and your loved ones – so we spoke with Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Brendan Graham, chief of pathology at Womack Army Medical Center, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Graham explained there are several varieties of the disease which can be caused by different factors, including:

  • Alcoholic Hepatitis (caused by excessive alcohol consumption)
  • Viral Hepatitis (caused by infection from viruses that target the liver)
  • Drug-induced hepatitis (caused by certain medications like acetaminophen or dietary supplements)
  • Steatohepatitis, or fatty-liver disease (caused by being overweight or obese)

All of the hepatitis variants can be very dangerous.

"All viral hepatitis can cause abdominal pain and jaundice - the yellowing of the skin and buildup of bilirubin - in the acute stage," said Graham. "Hepatitis that persists can lead to acute liver failure, which can lead to rapid coma and death as the body loses the capacity to process toxic materials in the blood or produce necessary proteins, or chronic liver failure, where the body gradually loses the ability to process toxins and produce proteins, causing numerous medical complications and leading to eventual death due to liver failure."

Liver failure can be either acute, meaning it is brought on suddenly by a specific event, or it can be chronic, which develops over time.

Graham said that "the types of hepatitis that lead to acute liver failure include drug-induced hepatitis - which can be caused by acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol - and certain types of infectious hepatitis, such as viral hepatitis caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV)".

Similarly, he said the types of hepatitis that lead to chronic liver failure include alcoholic hepatitis, fatty-liver disease, and certain types of viral hepatitis, such as those caused by the hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV) viruses.

Knowing the difference is important because it allows individuals to avoid death due to acute liver failure, said Graham. Additionally, most of the types of hepatitis that cause chronic liver failure are due to lifestyle choices, such as excessive alcohol use and obesity, making this type of hepatitis largely avoidable through lifestyle modifications.

"Infectious causes of hepatitis can be transmitted to other individuals by means of blood, sexual contact, and feces," added Graham. "Knowledge of these routes of transmission allow individuals to refrain from activities that could result in transmission or enact lifestyle modifications or public health measures that could reduce the risk or prevent transmission."

Graham added: "The multiple medical complications that come with chronic liver failure secondary to chronic hepatitis require significant medical care, numerous doctor visits, and hospitalizations to treat complications like excessive bleeding and excessive swelling."

It can also affect service members' readiness.

"Service members with chronic liver failure secondary to chronic hepatitis are non-deployable as a result of these complications and the significant medical care they require," he said. "Additionally, service members with viral hepatitis that are not yet in liver failure put their fellow service members at risk of contracting the virus due to exposure to the infected individual's blood in the course of providing medical care to an injured, infected individual or receiving a battlefield blood transfusion from an infected individual."

In the United States, the most common and severe types of viral hepatitis are those caused by HAV, HBV, and HCV.

"Chronic hepatitis leading to liver failure is an almost entirely preventable disease," said Graham. "Maintaining a healthy weight, consuming alcohol in moderation, and avoiding high-risk activities like intravenous drug use and sharing injection needles can prevent the vast majority of chronic hepatitis."

Additionally, he said there are new medical therapies for hepatitis C that can effectively cure the disease. "If an individual is at risk for having contracted hepatitis C, treatment with these drugs early in the course of infection can prevent the chronic liver inflammation that leads to liver failure."

Below is more information on the symptoms and the type of the disease each virus causes:

Symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Diarrhea (HAV only)

Hepatitis A:

  • Transmitted through close person-to-person and sexual contact with an infected person as well as by ingesting contaminated food and/or water.
  • Shed through infected feces – people who practice inadequate hygiene can contaminate prepared food with the virus and spread it to others.
  • This is the type of viral hepatitis linked to large outbreaks at a single restaurant or in a home.
  • Has an incubation period of 15-50 days, with an average of 28 days.

Hepatitis B:

  • Primarily transmitted from infected mothers to their babies during childbirth, through sexual contact with an infected individual, and through contact with an infected individual's blood, such as by sharing infected needles, syringes, or other injection-drug equipment.
  • Has an incubation period of 60-150 days, with an average of 90 days.

Hepatitis C:

  • Primarily transmitted through contact with an infected individual's blood, such as by sharing needles, syringes, and other injection-drug equipment. Also transmissible through sexual contact and from mothers to babies during childbirth.
  • Is much less common than the hepatitis B virus.
  • For more than half of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection, which can result in serious, even life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • People with chronic hepatitis C can often have no symptoms and don't feel sick.
  • Incubation period of 14-182 days, with an average range of 14-84 days.

For more information, refer to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention resources and/or talk to your MHS provider.

You also may be interested in...

Physical Disability Board of Review Process Chart

Fact Sheet
5/12/2022

This document shows the flow chart for how the PDBR processes requests for reviews of disability ratings.

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Physical Disability Board of Review | Physical Disability Board of Review | Physical Disability Board of Review

Kids' Teeth Grinding Usually Stops Around Age 9 or 10 - But Not Always

Article
4/15/2022
A child receives dental treatment during the “Give Kids a Smile” day event March 9, 2019, held by the 375th Dental Squadron clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Children registered for the event were given the chance to receive cleanings, fillings, and more at no cost to their parents. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Isaiah Gonzalez, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

Do you ever see or hear your child grinding his or her teeth or clenching his or her jaws during the day or at night while sleeping? That’s a potentially serious health problem. Teeth grinding in kids may require a night guard.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | TRICARE Dental Care

Military Dentists Provide Relief and Support in Central America

Article
3/8/2022
U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Lemieux (center), dental assistant with Army Forces Battalion, Joint Task Force-Bravo, and Col. Franklin Florence (right), general dentist with Army Forces Battalion, Joint Task Force-Bravo, prepare a patient for an extraction with assistance from a Honduran volunteer during a Global Health Engagement at Los Laureles, Santa Barbara department, Honduras, Feb. 15. JTF-Bravo, in conjunction with Honduran Ministry of Health representatives, conducted the mission to provide dental and other medical services with volunteer support from Honduran medical students, who served as interpreters.

Dental woes are common to everyone, everywhere. U.S. military medical and dental specialists conducted a Global Health Engagement with partners in Santa Barbara, Honduras, in February, where they provided dental and primary care services to local Hondurans.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

Teeth Grinding: You Won't Believe How Harmful it Really Is

Article
2/28/2022
U.S. Navy Hospitalman Justin Sobleskie (right), and U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Roberts, USS Carter Hall dental department head, do dental work on aboard the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) while at sea.

Grinding your teeth, called bruxism, can lead to migraines and neck pain or require surgery to replace the joint in your jaw.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

A Deployed Dentist Recalls His 'One-Chair' Clinic in Afghanistan

Article
2/16/2022
Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez did a tour of duty as a dentist downrange in Afghanistan.

“The soldiers knew whether there was a dentist on base. Those who needed something found me.”

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Reduce your risk of developing cancer

Article Around MHS
2/15/2022
About one of every three Americans will develop some form of malignancy during his or her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genes, lifestyle, and the environment work together to increase or decrease risk of getting cancer. Each person’s cancer risk is made up of a combination of these factors.

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. 

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

How 3D-Printed Teeth and Other New Tech are Transforming Dental Care

Article
2/15/2022
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaden Murry had nearly all of his lower jaw removed because of a tumor. The procedure was the DOD’s first ever immediate jaw reconstruction surgery using 3D-printed teeth.

Advances in dental technology are improving care and increasing the number of patients willing to get treatment when needed.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Women’s Heart Attacks Symptoms Can Differ from Men’s: Know the Signs

Article
2/11/2022
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack can differ between women and men. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 quickly.

Doctors say women sometimes fail to recognize their unique warnings signs for heart problems.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Heart Health

Why Dental Health is Essential for Warfighters and Military Readiness

Article
2/4/2022
U.S. Air Force Major Rachael Parrish, 20th Dental Squadron general dentist, performs an oral exam on Airman 1st Class Amie Bickford, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions technician at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, March 13, 2017. Airmen assigned to the 20th DS are tasked with ensuring airmen and soldiers on base meet all dental class requirements for deployment.

Your mouth is a gateway to your body. Bad oral hygiene can lead to serious health consequences that may affect your military readiness.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dentally Unready: Gen. George Washington's Lifetime of Dental Misery

Article
2/3/2022
Visitors to the George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and museum in Mount Vernon, Virginia, can see George Washington’s only remaining full denture among the collection. They include his own pulled and saved teeth, other human teeth, teeth from cows and horses that were filed to fit, and teeth carved from elephant ivory.

No, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. But he did struggle with dental problems for most of his life.

Recommended Content:

Military Medical History | TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Ask the Doc: Overcoming Your Fear of the Dentist

Article
2/1/2022
Patient getting dental care

Seeing the dentist can be scary. Here are some tips for how to make your next visit easier.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Ask The Doc

Dental Health is Mission Critical

Video
1/21/2022
Dental Health is Mission Critical

Dental emergencies are one of the top reasons people can't deploy or why they're brought home early. Take care of your dental health with these tips.

Recommended Content:

Dental Health | TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Health Main

Infographic
1/13/2022
Dental Health Main

Dental and oral health is critical to overall readiness, and poor dental hygiene and preventive practices can impact deployability. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Dental Awareness Deployment

Infographic
1/13/2022
Dental Awareness Deployment

A force that is not dentally prepared may see a fivefold increase in deployed dental emergencies. Regular dental care is needed to maintain readiness and deployability. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

Dental Health | TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Food and Beverage

Infographic
1/12/2022
Food and Beverage

#DYK: Drinks and foods high in sugar can lead to damage to your teeth. Skip the soda to protect your teeth. #dentalhealth

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Dental Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 9

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.