Rebecca Katzman, MDHepatitis Awareness Month

By Dr. Rebecca Katzman

The month of May is Hepatitis Awareness month and May 19th is National Hepatitis Testing Day. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and can be caused by alcohol use, certain supplements or toxins, obesity, rare autoimmune conditions, and viruses. The three most common causes of viral hepatitis in the United States are Hepatitis A, B, and C viruses. These viruses are very different from each other, but are grouped together because they all affect the liver. Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by safe and effective vaccines. Hepatitis C is not vaccine-preventable, but is curable in more than 95% of cases. We recommend all adults get tested at least once in their lifetime for Hepatitis B and C, as many people have the virus and are unaware.  We recommend testing women during every pregnancy for these. An estimated 2.2 million adults in the United States have Hepatitis C. Some people with hepatitis C virus may go on to develop liver failure or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of someone else who has hepatitis C, but if your friend or family member has hepatitis C, it cannot be spread through activities like holding hands, sharing eating utensils, hugging, coughing, or sneezing. We recommend screening for hepatitis C in adults because it has become so prevalent and because it has become much easier to treat and cure, so please talk to your healthcare provider to see if you need a screening test. For everyone to keep your liver healthy we recommend limiting or avoiding alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping diabetes and cholesterol controlled, and talking to your healthcare provider about all of your medications and supplements. The goal of Hepatitis Awareness month is to improve understanding and reduce stigma surrounding these conditions.