What Treatments Are Available for Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an inflammatory liver disease that’s caused by a virus. While it’s highly contagious, people who contract the virus and develop symptoms are likely to fully recover on their own without experiencing permanent liver damage. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to seek a confirmed diagnosis and medical treatment, however. Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver that can sometimes last for several months or even pose a risk of permanent liver damage for some individuals. Some of the best reasons to consult with a doctor as soon as you suspect you have hepatitis A include:
- The possibility of preventing the disease with a vaccine that’s typically effective if administered within two weeks of infection
- The ability to warn other people with whom you have close contact to take precautions against contracting the virus and/or seek medical care
- The prospect of relieving or reducing your hepatitis A symptoms through a physician-prescribed treatment plan
It’s smart to consult with your primary care physician if you have eaten at a restaurant that reported a hepatitis A outbreak soon after your visit or you live with someone who has the virus. A doctor’s visit is also in order if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms after traveling to a country with poor sanitation practices. If you need to locate a doctor and make an appointment, you can click here to use Tampa General Hospital’s online Physician Finder. Or call 1-800-505-7769 to speak to one of the medical professionals at TGH’s Liver Disease and Hepatology Program and ask about our services for patients with hepatitis A.
How is Hepatitis A Diagnosed?
When you visit your doctor, you’ll want to be prepared to discuss your symptoms and the reasons why you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. Typical symptoms include sudden fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, low-grade fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). After discussing your possible exposure to the virus and/or your symptoms, your doctor may order a blood test to determine whether there are antibodies to the hepatitis A virus in your bloodstream. Once a hepatitis A diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will likely provide you with a treatment plan that may include:
If you seek medical treatment within about two weeks of exposure to the hepatitis A virus, your doctor may prescribe a dose of the hepatitis A vaccine or a drug called hepatitis A immune globulin. The latter is a concentrated solution of antibodies harvested from human blood. This may prevent symptoms from developing.
Most people who develop hepatitis A symptoms can find adequate relief through over-the-counter medications for pain, fever, nausea and the itchy symptoms that often occur with hepatitis A. Your doctor may also recommend prescription medications. Make sure to consult with your doctor about any medications you’re taking, and especially before taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can sometimes make liver problems worse.
Although some patients with hepatitis A may require hospitalization, most people recover at home within two months of first experiencing symptoms. A typical at-home treatment plan is likely to include:
- Getting the rest you need depending on your energy level
- Avoiding alcohol consumption, which can put an extra strain on your liver
- Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
- Eating smaller meals to alleviate feelings of nausea
- Staying out of the sun and wearing cotton clothes to ease discomfort from itchy skin
Tampa General is Ready to Help
While the majority of hepatitis A patients will make a full recovery with no lasting liver damage, a few may develop serious complications that can ultimately lead to liver failure. The team of liver disease specialists at TGH take a comprehensive approach to liver disease treatment, including suggesting medication and lifestyle changes.
In the event a liver transplant is needed, patients can feel confident turning to us because TGH’s Transplant Institute has one of the busiest transplant centers with some of the shortest wait times in the nation. Our high volume of patients translates into a wealth of experience and above-average survival rates for even the most complex cases. If you or someone you know is experiencing the debilitating effects of liver disease, call us today at 1-800-505-7769 to learn more about our services.