All You Need to Know About Hepatitis
It is an inflammatory condition of the liver. The most common cause is a viral infection. Hepatitis can have other possible causes such as autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that are caused as a secondary result of alcohol, medications, drugs and toxins. Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body makes antibodies against the liver tissue. There are 5 types of viral hepatitis which include hepatitis A, B, C, D and E each caused by a different type of virus.
- Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted when the food or water consumed is contaminated by the faeces of a person infected with hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B is transmitted when a body comes in contact with the infectious body fluids, semen or vaginal secretions containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
- Hepatitis C is transmitted when a body is in direct contact with the infected bodily fluids mainly through sexual contact and injection drug use.
- Hepatitis D is contracted when there is direct contact with infected blood. This hepatitis occurs when the body is infected with hepatitis B as the hepatitis D virus cannot multiply without the presence of hepatitis B virus.
- Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease and is mainly found in areas where the water supply is contaminated with faecal matter and poor sanitation is seen.
When the alcohol consumption is excessive it injures the liver cells leading to permanent liver damage such as liver failure or cirrhosis and this is referred to as alcoholic hepatitis. Reaction to some medications can also lead to hepatitis.
What are common symptoms of Hepatitis?
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Pale stool
- Dark urine
- Flu-like symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Yellow skin and eyes may appear as a sign of jaundice
Hepatitis A and hepatitis E are short term diseases, while hepatitis B, C, D are the long-standing and chronic types of disease. Hepatitis E is generally self-limiting but can be dangerous for a pregnant woman.
All the symptoms of hepatitis are difficult to detect as the symptoms or the signs can get confused with common flu. It is always advised that if a person has muscle pains, abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, pale stools, nausea or vomiting, then he/she should consult a doctor at the earliest and get tested.
How does someone get affected by Hepatitis?
A person may not even be aware that he is infected with hepatitis until severe symptoms are seen. This virus can affect a person by birth or by the usage of any unsterilized needle, consumption of raw food or unfiltered water. As the saying goes “Prevention is better than cure”, the treatment for this disease if given at the right time can prevent a person from liver cirrhosis or scarring which can lead to liver cancer.
Millions of people across the world are losing their lives to this deadly viral infection, due to a lack of awareness. Hepatitis is preventable and curable when treated at the right time. People should pledge to raise awareness of hepatitis and encourage people to get tested and acquire the right diagnosis and treatment at the right time. Vaccines play an important role in preventing this disease and are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B.
What measures can be taken to avoid Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a silent epidemic with significant public health consequences and certain tips to be followed to prevent hepatitis are as follows:
To maintain good hygiene as it helps to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E and if a person is travelling then he/she should avoid:
- Unfiltered water
- Consuming raw food or fruits and vegetables
When Hepatitis is contracted through contaminated blood it can be prevented by:
- Not sharing toothbrush
- Not having sex with an infected partner
- Not share razors or any hygiene-related products
- Not using an unsterilized needle for drug usage
- Practising safe sex by using condoms or dental dams
Hepatitis can be diagnosed using certain tests like liver function tests, virus tests and rarely a liver biopsy. It is better to be aware of our surroundings and get tested. On this world hepatitis day, we should pledge to encourage prevention of hepatitis, diagnosis and treatment, support hepatitis patients and make our environment a Hepatitis-free environment.
- Hepatitis, WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/default.htm
- Hepatitis A, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-a/symptoms-causes/syc-20367007
- Hepatitis, Johns Hopkins: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hepatitis
- Hepatitis, Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis
About Author –
Dr. Sarada Pasangulapati,
Consultant Medical Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist , Yashoda Hospitals - Hyderabad
MRCP(UK), MRCP (GASTRO), CCT (UK), FRCP (GLASGOW) Fellowship in hepatology and Liver Transplantation (Cambridge)