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Senior Correspondent

Q. How many kinds of hepatitis are there?

Your liver helps your body digest food, store energy and remove poisons. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that makes it stop working efficiently. 

Hepatitis is usually caused by a virus. There are five main hepatitis viruses–types A, B, C, D and E.  There are several other causes of hepatitis.

Some people who have hepatitis have no symptoms. Others may have loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever, muscle and joint pain, diarrhea, dark-colored urine, pale bowel movements, stomach pain, and jaundice.
Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is in the feces of infected persons. It is most often spread through contaminated water or food. Hand-washing can prevent the spread of this virus. Many cases of HAV infections are mild; most people with HAV make a full recovery and remain immune to it. However, HAV can be life-threatening. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks, to a serious long-term illness that can lead to liver scarring (cirrhosis) and cancer. HBV usually gets better on its own after a few months. 

It is transmitted through contact with infectious blood, semen, and other body fluids from having sex with an infected person, sharing contaminated needles for injecting drugs, or from an infected mother to her newborn.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants, older children and adolescents who were not vaccinated previously, and adults at risk for HBV.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) usually causes a chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Hepatitis C virus is mostly transmitted through exposure to infected blood.  Sexual transmission is also possible, but is much less common. It can also spread from mother to baby during childbirth. There is no vaccine for HCV. 

Usually, hepatitis C does not get better by itself. The infection can last a lifetime.  Medicines sometimes help. Serious cases may need a liver transplant.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV. The dual infection of HDV and HBV can cause a more serious disease. Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV.  HDV is transmitted through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D is uncommon in the United States.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) usually does not lead to a chronic infection. It is caused by ingesting fecal matter in contaminated water or food. HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world. It is rare in the United States. Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available. 
Alcoholic hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is likely to affect people who drink heavily for a long time, but all heavy drinkers don't develop it. Moderate drinkers can get alcoholic hepatitis. If you have this form of hepatitis, you must stop drinking; it can be fatal.

Women have a higher risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis than men do. Other factors which may increase your risk include: type of beverage (wine is less risky than beer or liquor), binge drinking, obesity and being African-American or Hispanic.

Toxic hepatitis

Toxic hepatitis is from exposure to over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications such as cholesterol-lowering statins, herbs and supplements, and industrial chemicals. Alcoholic hepatitis can be included in this category.

Autoimmune hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your liver. Untreated autoimmune hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. When treated early, autoimmune hepatitis often can be controlled with drugs that suppress the immune system.

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