What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. It generally occurs due to viral infection. And some other causes of hepatitis include autoimmune hepatitis. It occurs as a result of medications, toxins, drugs, and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis disease occurs when our body starts making antibodies against the liver tissue. Our liver is located in the right upper area of the abdomen. The liver performs a lot of critical functions that affect metabolism in our body that are as follows:-
- Enzymes activation,
- synthesis of clotting,
- Production of bile for digestion,
- Filtering of toxins from the body,
- Synthesis of albumin (blood proteins),
- Breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins,
- Excretion of bilirubin, hormones, cholesterol, and drugs,
- Storage of glycogen, minerals, and vitamins (A, D, E, and K),
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.4 million Americans are suffering from chronic hepatitis B and C. Many people are unaware of the fact that they have hepatitis. If you are looking for different treatment options then it varies according to the type of hepatitis you have. Through immunizations and lifestyle precautions you can easily prevent hepatitis.
5 Common Types of Viral Hepatitis
Viral infections of the liver are classified as hepatitis which is Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Different types of viruses virally transmit hepatitis disease. Hepatitis A is a short-term disease and is acute, while hepatitis B, C, and D are ongoing and chronic whereas Hepatitis E is also acute but is dangerous for pregnant women.
It is caused due to infection through the hepatitis A virus (HAV). This type of hepatitis is most easily transmitted by consuming contaminated food or water or from a person infected with hepatitis A.
When you get in contact with infectious body fluids like blood, vaginal secretions, or semen that contains hepatitis B virus (HBV) then hepatitis B occurs. Use of injection or having sex with an infected partner, or sharing razors might increase the risk of getting Hepatitis B. Approx 1.2 million people in the United States and 350 million people worldwide are suffering from this chronic disease according to CDC.
It comes from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is transmitted when a person comes in direct contact with the infected body fluids. It could be through injection, or drug use or sexual contact as well. HCV is a common blood borne viral infection and around 2.5 to 4 million Americans are currently strugglings with this infection.
Hepatitis D is also known as delta hepatitis and is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). It occurs when a person comes in direct contact with the infected blood. Hepatitis D occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection. The hepatitis D virus is unable to multiply itself without the presence of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease that occurs due to the hepatitis E virus (HEV). This disease occurs where there is poor sanitation. It usually results from contaminated water usage.
Know the Causes of Noninfectious hepatitis
Alcohol and other toxins
Excessive alcohol consumption might cause liver damage and inflammation and is termed as alcoholic hepatitis. The alcohol directly affects the cells of the liver and causes permanent damage which leads to liver failure and cirrhosis. Other causes of hepatitis are the overuse or overdose of medications.
Autoimmune System Response
In some cases, the immune system considers the liver as a harmful object and attacks it which causes mild to severe inflammation. It hinders the functioning of the liver. It is three times more common in women than that in men.
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis
If you are suffering from infectious hepatitis like hepatitis B and C that are chronic then you will not experience symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms only occur when liver functions get affected.
The signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear very quickly that are as follows:-
- dark urine
- pale stool
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- flu-like symptoms
- sudden weight loss
- yellow skin and eyes, (signs of jaundice)
Chronic hepatitis generally develops slowly due to which its signs and symptoms are too subtle to notice.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
To diagnose hepatitis, a doctor will check your medical history to determine risk factors that you may have for hepatitis. During the physical examination doctor press, your abdomen gently to check if you have pain or not. Your doctor will check to see if your liver is enlarged. If your skin or eyes gets yellowish then he will notice it when you reach him. Blood samples are also required to determine how well your liver is functioning. Abnormal results indicate that there is a problem, especially when no signs are shown up during the physical exam of liver disease. High liver enzyme levels indicate that the liver has been damaged and is not functioning properly. If your liver is functioning abnormally then your doctor will ask you to go through a test to check for viruses that cause hepatitis. You might also have to check for antibodies in conditions like autoimmune hepatitis.
How to Treat Hepatitis?
Treatment options depend upon the type of hepatitis that you are facing and whether the infection is acute or chronic.
Usually Hepatitis A doesn’t require treatment as it is a short-term illness. Doctors recommend bed rest if Hepatitis A symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort to you. If you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea then discuss with your doctor regarding hydration and nutrition. The vaccines for hepatitis A is easily available. Children between the ages of 12 and 18 months take this vaccine..
Acute hepatitis B doesn’t need any specific treatment but chronic hepatitis B required treatment with antiviral medications. This treatment can be costly for you as it is continued for several months or years. It also requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring to check if the virus is responding or not. The CDC recommends its vaccinations for all newborns.
Both acute and chronic hepatitis C is treated with antiviral medications. People having chronic hepatitis C require a combination of antiviral drug therapies. People who develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver disease as due to chronic hepatitis C might require a liver transplant. Currently, there is no vaccination available for hepatitis C.
There is no antiviral medication available for the treatment of hepatitis D currently. In a 2013 study, a drug called alpha interferon was used to treat hepatitis D, but it only showed improvement in 30 % of people. You can get a vaccination for hepatitis B to prevent Hepatitis D as hepatitis B allows hepatitis D to develop.
Currently, no medical therapy is available to treat hepatitis E since the infection is not so complex and severe and it typically resolves on its own. People with this infection are advised to take proper rest, take enough nutrients, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid alcohol. However, pregnant women should take good care of themselves when this disease occurs.
Tips to Prevent Hepatitis
Practicing good hygiene is a good way to prevent hepatitis A and E. In case you are traveling to a developing country, then you must avoid:
- ice water
- local water
- raw or undercooked shellfish and oysters
- raw fruit and vegetables
Hepatitis B, C, and D develop through contaminated blood hence you should avoid sharing:
- touching spilled blood
Hepatitis B and C also get contracted through sexual intercourse and intimate sexual contact. Hence you must practice safe sex by using condoms and dental dams that reduce the risk of infection.
Vaccines play a vital role in preventing hepatitis. The scientists are trying their best to develop vaccines against hepatitis C. You can easily get vaccinations to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B. Experts are currently developing vaccines against hepatitis C. Vaccination for hepatitis E exists in China, but it not available in few countries.
Complications of Hepatitis
Chronic hepatitis B or C might lead to complex health problems. Since the virus affects the liver, due to which they are prone to:
- liver cancer
- chronic liver disease
Complications of liver failure:-
- hepatocellular carcinoma, (liver cancer)
- hepatic encephalopathy
- portal hypertension
- bleeding disorders
- kidney failure
People suffering from chronic hepatitis B and C are suggested not to take alcohol as it may accelerate liver disease and failure. Few supplements and medications also affect liver functioning. Check with your doctor if you have B or C hepatitis before you take any medications.