Hepatitis is a medical term used to describe an inflammation of the liver that can cause other health problems, and in some cases be fatal.
Because there are many types, it is common to get confused about their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Here we review the most common myths about this condition to clear all your doubts.
Myth 1: There is only one type of hepatitis
TRUE: It is common to talk about hepatitis as if it were a single condition, but the truth is that there are different types:
- viral hepatitis: It is the most common type, and, as its name indicates, it is caused by one or several types of virus, such as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
- alcoholic hepatitis: Occurs due to excessive alcohol consumption.
- toxic hepatitis: Occurs from exposure to certain poisons, chemicals, medications, or supplements.
- autoimmune hepatitis: It is a chronic type in which the immune system attacks the liver. The cause is unknown, but genetics and environment may play a role.
Myth 2: Hepatitis is easily identifiable by its symptoms
TRUE: This is a very common myth since when talking about hepatitis one immediately thinks of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). However, the symptoms will depend on the type of hepatitis that occurs. In addition to the already mentioned jaundice, they usually include:
- Abdominal or joint pain.
- Dark urine or stool.
- loss of appetite
However, it is wrong to believe that hepatitis is easily identifiable because it always causes signs. There are chronic cases where there are no symptoms at all until many years after infection.
- Mysterious childhood cases of hepatitis investigated
Myth 3: Hepatitis is a genetic condition
TRUE: In rare circumstances, hepatitis can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth (about 2% of cases). However, this is a condition that is mostly caused by exposure to viruses, toxins, or excessive alcohol consumption, not genetics.
Myth 4: Hepatitis can be transmitted by contact
TRUE: This is a widespread myth, but it does not stop being a myth. It is important to understand that the different types of hepatitis have different ways of transmission.
A and E are spread through contact with water or food contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Hepatitis E can also be caused by eating undercooked pork, deer, or shellfish.
Instead, hepatitis B, C, and D are spread through contact with the blood of a person with the disease.
Myth 5: Sexual intercourse transmits hepatitis
TRUE: As we explained in the previous myth, this statement cannot be extended to all hepatitis. However, experts warn that although hepatitis B and D are transmitted through contact with the blood of a person with the disease, they can also be spread through contact with other body fluids, for example, during sexual intercourse. without protection.
Myth 6: There are vaccines for the different types of hepatitis
TRUE: This is a very common mistake because the different types of hepatitis are often confused or mixed. Currently, there are only vaccines for hepatitis A and B (the latter can also help prevent hepatitis D), and both require two and three doses, respectively, to complete the series.
Myth 7: You can’t treat hepatitis
TRUE: Rest and proper hydration help to recover from hepatitis, however, there are also different medical treatments for this condition, depending on the type and whether it is acute or chronic.
For example, for the hepatitis C virus, treatment generally involves 8 to 12 weeks of oral pill therapy. Cure rates exceed 90%, the drugs have very few side effects and are very well tolerated.
In more serious cases, other medical procedures can be used, such as surgery or even a liver transplant.
Myth 8: You can’t get hepatitis C more than once
TRUE: It is common to believe that once hepatitis C is treated, it will not affect us again, but people can get it again after eliminating the virus naturally or after being treated with medication.
Antibodies from the original infection do not provide protection in the same way that a vaccine would. Therefore, it is still important to take precautions against reinfection once the initial infection has cleared.
In addition, the fact that a person has suffered from one type of hepatitis does not free them from the possibility of presenting any of the other variants in the future.
Myth 9: It is impossible to prevent hepatitis
TRUE: This is false. Depending on the type of hepatitis, there are different ways to prevent its appearance. For example, not drinking too much alcohol helps prevent alcoholic hepatitis, while getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B reduces the risk of contracting these types, respectively. However, there are cases in which it cannot be prevented, such as autoimmune hepatitis.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, World Health Organization (WHO).