Hepatitis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
Medikoe Health Expert
Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru Feb 13, 2017
Hepatitis is a condition of the liver that causes inflammation. There are many possible reasons behind its cause- viral infection, autoimmune response or a result of medication, drugs or alcohol.
It’s commonly a viral infection, but there are also some other possible causes of hepatitis. These involve autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that arise as a secondary result of medications, drugs, and alcohol. Autoimmune Hepatitis is a disease that happens when the body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.
The liver is a crucial organ, performing many essential functions of the body. Producing bile for digestion, filtering toxins, storage of glycogen are few of the many features.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) claims that around 4.4 million American people are presently suffering from chronic hepatitis B and C; also many more people are there who don’t even know if they have hepatitis or not.
The treatment options for hepatitis vary, depending on the type. Through immunizations and lifestyle precautions, people can prevent some forms of hepatitis.
Types of Hepatitis
There are five types of viral hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A is acute hepatitis or short tenure disease. Hepatitis B, C, and D are usually persistent or chronic, while hepatitis E is often acute but can be harmful to pregnant women.
- Hepatitis A: transmitted by hepatitis contaminated food or water
- Hepatitis B: transmitted through hepatitis infected body fluids like semen, vaginal secretions and blood.
- Hepatitis C: transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids like injections and sexual contact
- Hepatitis D: It is a severe form of the disease which is contracted through direct contact with infected blood and only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B because it cannot multiply without it.
- Hepatitis E: It is a disease that spreads through faecal matter contaminated water supply like pools.
- Alcoholic hepatitis is caused due to excessive consumption of alcohol which causes liver damage and inflammation due to a direct effect on the liver cells. This cause leads to permanent damage causing liver failure or cirrhosis.
- An autoimmune response is a condition where the body attacks its cells because it mistakes it as harmful. This condition causes inflammation which hinders the functioning of the liver.
Causes of Hepatitis
This disease is caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is the most frequently transmitted virus from food or water we consume from a person infected with hepatitis A, that are contaminated by faeces.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contiguity with infectious body fluids. These fluids increase your risk of getting hepatitis B, such as:
- Semen, containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV),
- Having sex with an infected partner,
- Vaginal secretions,
- Injection drug use,
- Or sharing razors with an infected person
It is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, mostly sexual contact or using injection drugs.
Hepatitis D also called delta hepatitis, is a consequential liver disease by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). HDV is also transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. The hepatitis D virus can’t multiply itself if there is no hepatitis B virus. It only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis E, due to the hepatitis E virus (HEV), is a waterborne disease. It is generally found in areas with poor sanitation and ingesting faecal or waste matter that pollutes the water supply.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
If someone has those hepatitis that are chronic or long term diseases, like hepatitis B and C, then he may be with no symptoms in the earlier stage, they will occur when the damage affects the functioning of the liver. But, signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis seem visible very early.
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice like symptoms- yellow eyes and skin
- Weight loss
- Symptoms like flu
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine and pale stool
Hepatitis Diagnosis & Prevention
To determine any risk factors, the victim may have for infectious or noninfectious hepatitis; the doctor will take all the previous checkups he had.
During a physical investigation, the doctor may press down the patient’s abdomen gently to see if there’s pain or tenderness. He will check for, if the liver is enlarged, or if skin or eyes are yellow.
Liver function tests are used to determine how efficiently your liver works. These tests involve blood samples to detect any signs of liver disease, and that will help in the physical exam of the patient. If there are high levels of liver enzymes, it indicates that his liver is stressed, damaged, or not functioning correctly.
An abdominal ultrasound creates an image of the abdominal organs using ultrasound waves. It helps the doctor to take a closure view of the liver, pancreas and nearby organs. It can reveal:
- fluid in your abdomen
- liver tumours
- liver damage or enlargement
- abnormalities of your gallbladder
A liver biopsy is an invasive procedure. It involves an examination of a sample of tissue from the liver. It doesn’t require any surgery, instead can be done through your skin with a needle. Typically, for taking the biopsy samples, an ultrasound is also performed to guide the doctor to understand how infection or inflammation has affected the liver. It will also detect areas in the liver that appear abnormal.
Some more blood tests
If liver function tests are found abnormal from the earlier examinations, the patient may have to go for other blood tests also, to detect the root cause of the problem. Such tests are also performed to check for antibodies that are common in conditions like autoimmune hepatitis.
How Is Hepatitis Treated?
As there are different types of hepatitis; hence, treatment options are determined accordingly.
As hepatitis A is a short-term illness, it usually doesn’t require treatment. If the symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort, it is recommended to have a complete bed rest. Consult a doctor if you experience vomiting or diarrhoea and follow a routine of doctor’s hydration and nutrition intake.
There is a vaccine available to prevent the infection of hepatitis A. It’s a series of two vaccines. Most children have this vaccination between the ages of 12 and 18 months which it’s combined with the hepatitis B vaccine when he grows into an adult.
While the acute ones don’t require any specific treatment, chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications. It can be expensive, as the procedure is continued for several months or years. It requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring to determine if the virus is responding to treatment.
Hepatitis B is also prevented with vaccination. It's a recommendation for all newborns. There are three series of vaccines that are typically completed over the first six months of childhood.
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. They may also need further testing to determine the best form of treatment.
People who develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver disease as a result of chronic hepatitis C may be candidates for a liver transplant.
Currently, there are no vaccinations for hepatitis C.
According to a study, a drug called alpha interferon can be used to treat hepatitis D, but it did not work with many numbers of people; instead, it only shows improvement in about 25 to 30% of people.
No antiviral medications exist for the treatment of hepatitis D at this time. Hepatitis D can be prevented by getting the vaccinations for hepatitis B, as infection with hepatitis B is necessary for hepatitis D to develop.
The infection is often acute, so it usually resolves on its own; hence, there are no such medical therapies available. People are often recommended to get adequate rest, get enough nutrients, drink plenty of fluids, and with no consumption of alcohol. If any pregnant women develop this infection, they will require close monitoring and supervision.
Corticosteroids, like prednisone or budesonide, are suggested for the early treatment of autoimmune hepatitis. They’re useful in about 80% of people with this condition.
Azathioprine (Imuran), a drug that is often included in treatment, with or without steroids, suppresses the immune system.
Other immune-suppressing drugs like mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (Prograf) and cyclosporine (Neoral) can also be used as alternatives to azathioprine for treatment.
Easy Tips to Prevent Hepatitis
Hygiene is essential to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. If you’re travelling to a developing country, you should avoid:
- Local water
- Raw or undercooked shellfish and oysters
- Raw vegetables and fruits
As we know that hepatitis B, C, and D traversed through contaminated blood; hence, it can be prevented by:
- Not sharing drug needles
- Not sharing razors
- Not using someone else’s toothbrush
- Not touching spilt blood
The disease can also be contracted through sexual intercourse or intimate sexual contact. Practising safe sex by using condoms and dental dams can help decrease the risk of infection.
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