What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. It’s commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.
The 5 types of viral hepatitis
Viral infections of the liver that are classified as hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by an infection with the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This type of hepatitis is most commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen, containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Injection drug use, having sex with an infected partner, or sharing razors with an infected person increase your risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C comes from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact.
Also called delta hepatitis, hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). HDV is contracted through direct contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D is a rare form of hepatitis that only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection. The hepatitis D virus can’t multiply without the presence of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis E is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting fecal matter that contaminates the water supply.
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis :
Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dark urine
- Pale stool
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice
How hepatitis is diagnosed :
- History and physical exam
- Liver function tests
- Other blood tests
- Liver biopsy
How hepatitis is treated :
- Hepatitis A usually doesn’t require treatment because it’s a short-term illness. Bed rest may be recommended if symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort. If you experience vomiting or diarrhea, follow your doctor’s orders for hydration and nutrition.
- Acute hepatitis B doesn’t require specific treatment. Chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications.
- Antiviral medications are used to treat both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C. People who develop chronic hepatitis C are typically treated with a combination of antiviral drug therapies.
- No antiviral medications exist for the treatment of hepatitis D at this time. Hepatitis D can be prevented by getting the vaccination for hepatitis B, as infection with hepatitis B is necessary for hepatitis D to develop.
- Currently, no specific medical therapies are available to treat hepatitis E. Because the infection is often acute, it typically resolves on its own.
- Hepatitis A
Immunization of children (1-18 years of age) consists of two or three doses of the vaccine. Adults need a booster dose six to 12 months following the initial dose of vaccine. The vaccine is thought to be effective for 15–20 years or more.
- Hepatitis B
Safe and effective vaccines provide protection against hepatitis B for 15 years and possibly much longer. Currently, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all new-borns and individuals up to 18 years of age and adult participating at risk of infection be vaccinated. Three injections over a six to 12 month period are required to provide full protection.
- In General:
- Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before fixing food or eating.
- Use latex condoms, which may lower the risk of transmission.
- Avoid tap water when traveling to certain countries or regions. Ask your doctor about risks before you travel or call the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention at 877-FYI-TRIP.
- Don’t share drug needles.
- Don’t share personal items—such as toothbrushes, razors and nail clippers—with an infected person.
Complications of hepatitis :
Chronic hepatitis B or C can often lead to more serious health problems. Because the virus affects the liver, people with chronic hepatitis B or C are at risk for:
- Chronic liver disease
- Liver cancer
When your liver stops functioning normally, liver failure can occur. Complications of liver failure include:
- Bleeding disorders
- A build up of fluid in your abdomen, known as ascites
- Increased blood pressure in portal veins that enter your liver, known as portal hypertension
- Kidney failure
- Hepatic encephalopathy, which can involve fatigue, memory loss, and diminished mental abilities due to the build up of toxins, like ammonia, that affect brain function
- Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a form of liver cancer
Blog Post Written By : Dr Abhinash Kumar, MD, DM (Gastroenterology)