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How Hepatitis A Affects the Body: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

written by: Tania Cowling • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/6/2011

Hepatitis is a disease of the liver that comes in many forms from A to E. If you are asking specifically what is hepatitis A, read on for more details about this specific type of the overall disease.

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    Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. It has numerous causes and is classified by letters from A to E.

    Hepatitis is a viral infection that attacks and damages the liver. Hepatitis A has been formally known as infectious hepatitis. It is a person-to-person contact illness where you can acquire the disease from sexual relations or even changing a diaper of a person who has the virus. Sometimes the person does not even show symptoms, but is still contagious. Hepatitis A can also be spread by food or water contaminated with feces or by the fecal-oral route.

    Washing hands is so important to prevent transmission of this illness. Food prepared by ill people who don’t wash their hands after visiting the bathroom can contaminate many. The virus can live on the hands, in water and in the soil. You cannot get hepatitis A by sitting next to a person or even giving a hug.

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    What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

    The liver is a vital organ that breaks down waste products and cleanses the blood in your body. When the liver cannot work properly due to inflammation from viral hepatitis, billirubin increases in the blood. This increase can cause jaundice (when the skin and eyes turn yellow) and other symptoms. Hepatitis A has a slow onset and most people fully recover. This form of hepatitis is not as dangerous or chronic as B and C are.

    A person with hepatitis develops flu-like symptoms, however some people can carry the virus for months before showing symptoms. When the illness progresses a person can have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever (low-grade or up to 102 F), fatigue, abdominal pain (especially on the right side), loss of appetite, muscle pain, itching, and dark-colored urine. As the virus continues, some people develop jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. A light-colored stool is another signal to having a form of hepatitis.

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    Treating the Disease

    Hepatitis A can be detected and diagnosed through a blood test. If your test is positive, your doctor will provide instructions to treat your illness according to the symptoms you have. Most people will get better in a few weeks without treatment. Some need to be hospitalized if they have severe pain or dehydration.

    Treat your liver with kindness by avoiding any alcohol and acetaminophen. Alcohol and medications are broken down in the liver and by avoiding them will give this organ a rest. Eat a well balanced diet of good foods and get plenty of rest.

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    Alternative Treatment

    Recovery from hepatitis A depends on a focus of liver detoxification and strengthening. Consuming a vegetarian diet prevents the liver from being overworked and introduces good phytochemicals from plants. Dr. Gary Null recommends a good daily drink for liver cleansing that consists of lemon juice (or cider vinegar) in water with a teaspoon of honey and royal jelly. Also include supplements to the diet such as quercetin, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, B-complex vitamins (especially B-12) and selenium.

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    Prevention

    Children and adults can prevent hepatitis A as well as other forms of this liver disease by receiving vaccines. A hepatitis vaccine is safe for children (over age 1) and adults that can protect a person for many years.

    If you have been in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, contact your doctor immediately as sometimes a shot can help prevent the virus from developing.

    People with hepatitis, or people who are concerned about transmission of the hepatitis virus, can visit the American Liver Foundation website or call 1-800-GO-LIVER to learn more about prevention.

References

  • "Hepatitis A" Family Doctor.org http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/infections/hepatitis/897.html

    Diseases of the Human Body, 4th Edition by Carol D. Tamparo & Marcia A. Lewis

    The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing by Gary Null, Ph.D. (1998)