The Liver Disease Center at Henry Ford Health is at the forefront of viral hepatitis care. We were among the first to pioneer interferon-based therapies. More recently, our breakthrough research has led to the next generation of innovative antiviral medications.
No one is better equipped to treat hepatitis than our team of experienced liver specialists (hepatologists). Our expertise, clinical research capabilities and commitment to compassionate care are unmatched in the region.
What is viral hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis refers to a group of conditions – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E – that cause liver inflammation. These infections are the result of viruses that spread from person to person.
Hepatitis B and C are the most common and likely to cause chronic infections and liver damage. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and among the top causes of cirrhosis and liver failure.
Hepatitis A doesn’t usually cause long-term problems. Hepatitis D and E are rare in the U.S.
Viral hepatitis differs from drug-induced hepatitis. In drug-induced hepatitis, toxic levels of medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs cause liver inflammation. Viral hepatitis is also distinct from autoimmune hepatitis, which is when your immune system attacks your liver.
How does viral hepatitis spread?
Each type of viral hepatitis can spread in different ways. Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are most often spread through:
- Blood transfusions or organ transplants that took place before 1992
- Direct contact with infected blood, body fluids or needles
- Pregnancy (from a pregnant person to the fetus)
- Sexual contact with someone who has the virus
- Sharing used needles, usually to inject drugs
Are there vaccines for viral hepatitis?
There are vaccines for hepatitis A and B. Your healthcare provider may recommend these vaccines depending on your age and hepatitis risk level.
Signs and symptoms of viral hepatitis
Hepatitis B and C may not cause symptoms. If symptoms do appear, it may be months (more common with HBV) or years (more common with HCV) after infection. Viral hepatitis symptoms can include:
- Dark urine
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in your stomach or joints
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?
We may suspect you have viral hepatitis based on your symptoms and medical history. Blood tests can confirm a viral hepatitis infection and tell us what type of hepatitis you have.
Your liver specialist might recommend additional tests to assess liver damage, including:
- Imaging exams: A CT scan, ultrasound or MRI can identify an enlarged liver or liver cancer. At Henry Ford, we offer FibroScan®, a noninvasive ultrasound test that measures liver stiffness. A hardened liver may mean you have scar tissue buildup. FibroScan is a quick, painless alternative to an invasive liver biopsy.
- Liver biopsy: A liver biopsy can help us determine the stages of liver damage. We use a needle to take a tissue sample from your liver. A pathologist examines the sample under a microscope to look for abnormal liver cells, which can indicate liver cancer or other types of liver damage.
Learn more about how we diagnose liver disease at Henry Ford.
Viral hepatitis treatment at Henry Ford
Our team approach to viral hepatitis treatment means you receive care from experts across multiple disciplines. Hepatologists, gastroenterologists, pharmacists, infectious disease specialists and other providers weigh in on your treatment plan.
Hepatitis B treatment
If you have an acute hepatitis B infection (when you’re first infected), we may recommend supportive therapy. Supportive therapy usually includes rest, hydration, a healthy diet and no alcohol. Most people don’t need any other treatments, and the infection usually goes away in a few months.
If you have chronic hepatitis B (an infection that lasts longer than six months), you will likely need antiviral pills. They help fight the virus, reduce liver inflammation and prevent disease progression.
Hepatitis C treatment
Henry Ford is at the forefront of the newest therapies for hepatitis C care. We offer the latest class of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), a type of medication that targets specific enzymes in the virus.
DAAs interfere with the way the hepatitis virus replicates and progresses. They can prevent complications like liver cancer and long-term liver damage and remove the virus from your system.
Fortunately, DAAs are associated with a high rate of curing hepatitis C. They cause fewer side effects than prior traditional interferon-based therapies and offer many patients an improved quality of life.
Take the next step
To connect with a liver disease specialist, call (313) 916-8865 or request an appointment.