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Everything You Should Know About Hepatitis

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Overview | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention | Vaccines

What is hepatitis?

Simply, hepatitis is a medical condition that includes inflammation of liver cells and liver damage. It occurs due to different types of viruses. Some other factors also contribute to making you infected.

Our liver removes toxins from the blood, produce hormones, stores vitamins etc. But after hepatitis occurs, all the processes of the liver gets disrupt. There are mainly five types of hepatitis viruses, among which hepatitis A, B, and C are considered the most life-threatening ones. Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.

Fact: Currently, about 4.4 million Americans are suffering from chronic  hepatitis B and C.

Some even don’t know that they are infected with hepatitis.

Types and causes of hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A is caused due to an infection through a virus called hepatitis A (HAV).  This type of hepatitis is caused by consuming contaminated food and water.( contaminated by dung of a hepatitis A infected person). Hepatitis A is acute and a short – term disease.
  • Hepatitis B – It is transmitted when a person comes in contact with infectious body fluids of a hepatitis B infected person, such as blood, vaginal secretion, semen etc. Reuse of injections, drug injections, having sex with infected partner, etc. Will make you more likely to get infected. Hepatitis B is chronic. According to CDC, about 1.2 million people in U.S. and 350 million people worldwide are suffering from chronic hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C – It occurs due to hepatitis C virus or HCV. You have a high risk of getting infected with hepatitis C if you are in contact with body fluids, of the hepatitis C infected person. Injection drug use or sexual contact can also lead to this disease. It is chronic in nature. Currently, there are 2.7 to 3.9 million people are infected with chronic hepatitis C, in U.S.
  • Hepatitis D – Hepatitis D is also known as delta hepatitis. In this, your liver will get severely infected with hepatitis D virus (HDV). One gets this hepatitis when he /she comes in contact with the infected blood of a hepatitis D infected person. More importantly, one will get this hepatitis only if he /she already have hepatitis B virus within. As hepatitis B and D are co – related, and hepatitis D virus is unable to multiply in absence of hepatitis B virus. It is rare and chronic in nature.
  • Hepatitis E – It is a waterborne disease caused by the infection of hepatitis E virus (HEV). Poor sanitation contributed a lot in the occurrence of this disease. It is generally acute but proved to be quite dangerous in pregnancy.

And here comes a surprise, most if the people know about all the five types of hepatitis, but do you know that there is Hepatitis G also? If no, then read further.

  • Hepatitis G – Most of the people don’t know about hepatitis G because it is recently discovered. It resembles HCV but quite similar to flavivirus. This HGV is also known as GBV – C. Since it’s a new version of hepatitis, there is no any confirmed role of this disease is known till now.

There are some other viruses also, which can cause hepatitis, such as CMV, EBV and HSB.

Other causes of non – infectious hepatitis:

  • Alcohol and toxics – The form of hepatitis which us caused due to excessive consumption of alcohol is called alcoholic hepatitis. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage and inflammation. Alcohol directly damaged your liver cells and lead to liver failure by causing permanent damage.
  • Overuse or overdose of medications
  • Exposure to poisons
  • Autoimmune system response – It occurs when our body’s immune system assumes liver as a foreign object and starts attacking it. This results in mild to severe inflammation and hindered liver function.

Symptoms of hepatitis:

If you have chronic form of hepatitis, then you may not experience any type of symptoms until your liver functions gets damaged fully. Whereas, symptoms of acute (hepatitis A and E) hepatitis can be experienced quite early from the damage of the liver. It can be possible that you have hepatitis but you don’t have any symptoms. These symptoms are —

  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools
  • Flu – like symptoms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Yellow coloured skin and eyes, may be jaundice.
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Malaise
  • Itchy skin
  • Blood in faeces and vomit
  • Swelling of the lower extremities
  •  Confusion

Diagnosis of hepatitis:

Physical examination is the first thing to do. Doctor can check your abdomen and liver. Then liver function test can be done, to know the efficiency of your liver. High liver enzymes levels indicates that your liver is stressed, damaged or not functioning properly.  A blood test can also help to recognise that if you are infected with hepatitis or not and any kind of presence of antibodies. Abdominal ultrasound can also be a great option to go with, as it will tell you a lot about the liver and its nearby organs. To know about any type of infection and inflammation of the liver, liver biopsy can be done.

Treatment of hepatitis:

 Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A doesn’t require any kind of serious treatment, as it can be treated by just having a great bed rest and healthy diet. You can also ask your doctor to know about do’s and don’ts, if you are feeling discomfort, vomiting, diarrhoea etc.

  • Hepatitis B: You really don’t need any particular treatment of hepatitis B, if your infection is acute. But, of it is chronic, then it can be treated by anti – viral medications. Chronic hepatitis B needs regular monitoring and medical evaluation to know that whether the virus is responding to the medications or not.
  • Hepatitis C: People with acute and chronic hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral drugs and therapies. Further testing Amy also is required.
  • Hepatitis D: No antiviral medications is proved to be effective on the hepatitis D virus. A drug called alpha interferon can be used but it is only effective on about 25 – 30 per cent of people.
  • Hepatitis E: There is not any particular treatment or medication for this, and honestly, you don’t need even need it. Because it can be treated by just following a healthy lifestyle, increased water intake, rest and avoiding alcohol. Only pregnant women need monitoring.

Prevention tips:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid contaminated water and food
  • Avoid sharing drug needles
  • Avoid sharing any kind of personal instruments like razors etc.
  • Avoid any kind of contact with the body fluids of others, like spilt blood.
  • Always wash your hands completely after any kind of contact of waste or dirt, like after using the bathroom etc.
  • Consume properly cooked food only
  • Take precautions to avoid any kind of infections
  • Go for regular check-ups, especially if you are having any symptoms.

Vaccines:

  • Hepatitis A: Its vaccine is available and a set of two. Children of 12 to 18 years can be vaccinated. But, adults can get hepatitis B vaccine also along with hepatitis A.
  •  Hepatitis B: Its vaccine is a set is three and can be completed within six months of birth.
  • Hepatitis C: Currently, no vaccine is available.
  • Hepatitis D: A vaccine of hepatitis B can prevent hepatitis D infection also.

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