Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
Alcohol consumption, several health conditions and some medications can cause this condition among them most commonly caused by viruses.
This condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 354 millionTrusted Source people currently live with chronic hepatitis B and C globally.
Let us understand in detail the different types of hepatitis, their common symptoms, causes, diagnosis and their treatment.
Common causes of hepatitis are infectious and non-infectious.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
Infections caused due to Hepatitis A and E are acute short term illnesses. They are caused by ingestion of contaminated food and water. Infected patients recover within few days or sometimes in few weeks.
Any pregnant female getting infected with Hepatitis E virus may lead to complications.
Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids.
The common modes of transmission for these viruses are sexual transmission, blood borne and during pregnancy from a mother to her baby.
1. Alcohol intake
2. Overuse or misuse of medicines.
3. Toxin exposure.
4. Auto immune hepatitis - Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when our body makes antibodies against liver tissue.
Hepatitis B and C infection –
In most patients, hepatitis B and C infection develops slowly over the course of several decades, and thus most patients have no symptoms.
Some patients may have very nonspecific symptoms related to fatigue and discomfort on the right side of the abdomen. Often, symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of hepatitis C are noticeable only at the end stage of liver disease, when the patient has developed liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
Hepatitis A, E and alcoholic hepatitis – commonly observed symptoms are:
Other symptoms commonly observed are:
Doctors decide the investigation tests to be done depending on the symptoms, medical examination to accurately diagnose the exact condition of the patient.
The treating doctor will first take the history to determine any risk factors and during a physical examination may check the abdomen to see if there’s any pain or tenderness. He may also check for any swelling of the liver and any yellow discoloration of eyes or skin.
Common blood test includes Liver function tests which is done to check the liver enzymes and bilirubin levels.
Other special blood tests include Antibody testing depending on the virus A, E, C and B is also suggested.
Doctors may also use blood tests to check for any signs of autoimmune hepatitis.
An abdominal ultrasound is primarily done to get a closer look on the liver and the nearby organs. It helps in checking for any liver swelling, liver lesions, inflammation in gall bladder and for fluid in abdomen (ascites).
For some patients CT Scanning is advised and in rare cases liver biopsy is also suggested.
Treatment options vary by the type of hepatitis and whether the infection is acute or chronic.
Hepatitis A and E are short-term illnesses and may not require treatment. However, if the symptoms persist, doctors may ask to avoid oily and spicy food.
Hepatitis B and C – If the patient has chronic hepatitis B , antiviral drugs are recommended which may have to be continued for several months or years.
Antiviral medications can treat both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C.
Treatment for Alcoholic hepatitis is complete avoidance of alcohol. Patients are strictly asked to stop consuming alcohol with supportive therapy for them to settle down over a period of time.
In Autoimmune hepatitis corticosteroids are extremely important as they are effective in about 80 percent of people. In some cases medicines are suggested that suppresses the immune system.
People with chronic hepatitis B or C are at risk of
1. A build up of fluid in the abdomen, known as ascites due to liver cirrhosis.
2. Brain gets affected called as hepatic encephalopathy, which can involve fatigue, memory loss and diminished mental abilities
3. Increased blood pressure in portal veins that enter the liver, known as portal hypertension
4. In some cases due to advanced stages of liver cirrhosis the patient experiences kidney failure and in some cases hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a form of liver cancer
The most important tip or protection against hepatitis is through vaccine.
1. Vaccines against hepatitis A and B are available.
There are currently no vaccines for hepatitis C or E.
2. Hepatitis viruses get transmitted from person to person through contact with body fluids, water, and foods containing infectious agents. So its always advisable not to share razors, tooth brushes and needles.
Minimizing contact with these substances can help to prevent contracting hepatitis viruses.
3. Practicing effective hygiene is one way to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. Always consume safe, clean and filtered water. Avoid raw, uncooked outside food as far as possible.
Wash fruits properly before consumption and clean and cook the vegetables properly. Use proper and safe sanitation practices.
4. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through sexual intercourse and sexual contact. Using barrier methods can help decrease the risk of infection.
Doctors advise people to take adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, get enough nutrients and avoid alcohol.
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