The whats and hows of Hepatitis
"Even though there are vaccines and treatments available for to cure Hepatitis, it kills hundreds of people every year. There are multiple factors that can be blamed for this. Awareness is one major factor that can be addressed and can help the world bring the numbers of fatality and infections drastically down. Therefore, to do our bit in spreading awareness, we answer the most important whats and hows of Hepatitis. "
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver. The primary cause of this disease is a viral infection that can spread through contaminated food or water, unsafe blood transfusion, unprotected sex with an infected partner, etc. If not treated on time, Hepatitis can either bring in a range of other health problems or be fatal.
What are the types of Hepatitis?
There are five different types of viral Hepatitis - A, B, C, D, and E. The type of hepatitis one suffers from depends on the virus that infected the body. While all the five types cause liver diseases, they differ in multiple ways including modes of transmission, severity, prevention methods, etc.
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). This virus typically spreads when an uninfected and unvaccinated person consumes food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Unsafe water, poor sanitation, and bad hygiene contribute to the spreading of Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is responsible for the occurrence of Hepatitis B disease. This virus is transmitted when someone comes in contact with bodily fluids like blood, vaginal secretions, or semen of an infected person. Mother to child transmission plays major role.
Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) spreads just like the Hepatitis B virus - through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person sharing razors, or injected drug, multiple sex partners use increase the chances of Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D is a rather rare form of Hepatitis. It is caused by the Hepatitis D virus (HDV), but it cannot function and multiply without the presence of HBV.
Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is found mainly in places with poor sanitation and in contaminated water making it a waterborne disease.
Hepatitis B and C together are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis, cancer, and viral Hepatitis-related deaths.
What do the symptoms look like?
Most of the time, people with chronic Hepatitis exhibit mild or no symptoms at all, until the virus has damaged the liver. However, in most of the cases, especially acute Hepatitis, symptoms can be identified even though they are subtle. The symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale or clay-colored stool
- Aching joints
What are the complications of Hepatitis?
HBV and HCV can cause a chronic liver infection that can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. People infected with these two viruses, in particular, are at a higher risk of mortality.
Hepatitis E can result in hepatomegaly, a condition in which the liver is slightly enlarged and tender. Occasionally, this disease can also lead to acute liver failure. More concern in pregnant women.
It is advised to avoid unnecessary medication as it can affect the liver negatively and worsen things for the patient.
How to prevent Hepatitis?
There are a number of ways in which you can prevent yourself from getting infected by the Hepatitis virus. Some of the most effective ways of doing so are:
- Practice good personal hygiene
- Use a condom during sexual intercourse
- Examine the needles used when getting tattoos or body piercings.
- Make sure they are new and unused
- Don’t use an infected person’s personal items like razors, toothbrushes, etc.
- Buy bottled water to drink while traveling
- Take all the necessary precautions when traveling to places with poor sanitation Avoid local water and uncooked/raw food in places with poor sanitation
- Get your vaccinations
How is Hepatitis treated?
An effective vaccine to prevent Hepatitis A is available which eliminates the limited risks of this condition. HAV infections are often mild and most of the people infected by it fully recover and develop immunity to further infection.
There is also a vaccine to treat Hepatitis B which also prevents the development of Hepatitis D. It can also be treated with antiviral agents. Timely treatment of Hepatitis B can slow the progression of liver cirrhosis, reduce the chances of liver cancer, and improve long term survival.
A vaccine to prevent infections of Hepatitis E virus (HEV) exists as well, but it’s not widely available.
There is no vaccine available to treat Hepatitis C. However, some functional antiviral medicines can cure this disease with nearly 95% success rate.
Dr Ravisankar Reddy N
Senior Consultant – Medical Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.