A silent disease that is impacting thousands yearly
The liver is a critical organ in the body as it has many functions, such as processing nutrients, filtering blood and toxins in the body, and fighting infection. Keeping your liver healthy is vital, yet thousands of people are walking around unaware that they are suffering from a very serious illness called hepatitis, which is inflammation of the liver. Because this disease can be considered a ‘silent killer,’ the medical community worldwide comes together to focus on awareness as July 28 is known as World Hepatitis Day. Those at risk for hepatitis are encouraged to be tested to prevent long-term impacts.
The origins of hepatitis expand thousands of years
The history of hepatitis goes back thousands of years as there were reports of people some 2500 years ago in Babylon experiencing jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, which is a classic sign that something dire is going on with the liver. Jaundice is still a classic sign of liver disease, but now, doctors know that a condition that could be causing jaundice is hepatitis. Still, one of the challenges is learning which form of hepatitis someone has if indeed that is the cause of liver disease. There are different forms of hepatitis in the world; in the United States, the most common forms are Hepatitis A, B, or C, and while they all impact the liver, the way people contract them and outcomes are different:
- Hepatitis A: is found in the stool and blood of infected people and is very contagious through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink
- Hepatitis B: is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. Common modes of transmission are through sexual contact, sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection paraphernalia, or from mother to baby at birth.
- Hepatitis C: is spread through contact with blood from an infected person; the most common modes of transmission are sharing needles or other drug-related paraphernalia or blood transfusions.
Thankfully today, there is a vaccine for Hepatitis A and B, and if you have not been vaccinated, talk with your doctor, especially if you do run the risk of contracting the disease. Ongoing efforts are being made to develop a vaccine for Hepatitis C, but it is still in the research phase. When it comes to the seriousness of this disease, each form, A, B & C, can cause serious long-term impacts, but Hep C is the one you hear most about because of the number of cases now being reported. Hep C is on the rise, increasing some 379 percent from 2010-2017. While, again, there is no vaccine, the good news is that advancements in treatments are startling from years past, and now this virus can be brought under control in just weeks with medication in most cases.
Louisiana residents need to know warning signs of hepatitis
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest study on viral hepatitis, and when it came to Louisiana in 2018, the agency noted the State recorded:
- 37 new cases of Hepatitis A
- 57 new cases of Hepatitis B
- 8 acute cases; 6,640 chronic cases of Hepatitis C
The way to prevent short-term or long-term problems with hepatitis is knowing the warning signs, such as:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
If you are experiencing any of the following or are concerned that you could have been exposed to hepatitis, contact your doctor as finding out is as simple as a blood test, and the sooner this virus is detected, the better off you will be.
Dr. Yuratich is a native from the Greater New Orleans area. Originally from Port Sulphur, La., Dr. Yuratich has served the West Bank since 1991. Dr. Yuratich received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Louisiana State University and his Medicine Doctorate from Louisiana State University Medical Center. Dr. Yuratich then completed his Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residency program at the LSUMC Charity Hospital. He is board certified by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. Additionally, Dr. Yuratich is an active member of the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.
He began his professional career with Family Health Network in 1991, transitioning to Tenet Physician Group in 1995. In 2000, he formed MacArthur Primary Care Center and practiced until 2018, when he joined the West Jefferson Family Doctors of Algiers. His special interests include preventative healthcare for all ages, adolescent growth and development, senior healthcare management, and men’s and women’s health.