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What is hepatitis?

Here is all you need to know about hepatitis causes, symptoms, diagnosis & cure !

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It is a condition that can be self-limiting or can lead to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. The most common causes of Hepatitis in the world are Hepatitis viruses, however, other toxic substances (e.g certain drugs, alcohol), autoimmune diseases and infections can also cause hepatitis.

Hepatitis A

It is a disease that causes the liver to become inflamed.  It is caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Hepatitis disease can also be caused because of certain sexual practices with an infected individual.

Hepatitis cases may vary from mild to severe. In some cases, people can recover without any permanent damage while in some patient may suffer major consequences that can be life-threatening. The good news is that it is preventable by adopting good hygiene practices and effective vaccinations available for HAV.

Symptoms

It is possible that you may not notice any symptoms of Hepatitis A. However, sometimes mild symptoms may start appearing after 2 weeks. These symptoms are more visible in adults as compared to children. Mild symptoms include

Decreased appetite

Fever

Muscle or joint pain

Nausea

Diarrhea

Weight loss

Fatigue

Vomiting

Jaundice

Abdominal pain

Hepatitis A is contagious. It is important to note that the feces of a sick individual can infect another individual. The acute symptoms are fully recoverable after a short period of time. However, if the disease rapidly progresses, the symptoms can become more worrisome and can potentially lead to death.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is contracted through exposure to contaminated blood, body fluids, and semen. It can cause a serious infection of the liver and various health complications. It can also be caused by transfusion of infected blood, contaminated injections or needles during a medical procedure. Hepatitis B is more likely to infect children as compared to adults. It can also be transmitted from infected mother to her baby during birth.

Most of the people with Hepatitis B can recover fully without any extensive damage or long-term effects. However, in some cases, the disease may become chronic, which means it lasts longer than 6 months. Those infected with chronic Hepatitis B are at more risk of developing liver failure or cancer.

Symptoms

Hepatitis B is a relatively silent infection. It means people are often unaware that they are infected by it. There is a risk for those who got infected and can develop chronic hepatitis. It can attack your liver for many years, causing serious liver damage.

Acute symptoms of Hepatitis include

Fatigue

Jaundice

Muscle or joint pain

Nausea

Fever

Pain in your abdomen

Vomiting

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C has the similar symptoms of Hepatitis A and B, but comparatively, it is much more chronic. Its symptoms can be similar to Hepatitis A and B and can result in hampering individual’s liver. It is usually spread by coming in contact with an infected person via blood or body fluids. In children and babies, it is usually transmitted at the time of birth from an infected mother. The higher the viral load in the mother, the higher the risk of infection. It is more common in adults as compared to children.

Hepatitis C in chronic phase can cause liver cancer. People living with an infected person can contract Hepatitis C by sharing items that contain person’s blood, for example, razors, toothbrushes, and scissors.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

If we talk about Hepatitis C in infants, it is suspected in case the mother is Hepatitis C positive. However, your doctor may need to run a few tests to check it. Adults usually do not notice the symptoms of Hepatitis C. Symptoms usually appear once disease worsens. However, it is possible to experience some symptoms of acute Hepatitis C.

Fever

Weight loss

Nausea

Vomiting

Muscle or joint pain

Decreased appetite

Fatigue

Abdominal Pain

Jaundice

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is caused by the Hepatitis D virus (HDV), also called delta Hepatitis. It can only be contracted by patients who already suffer from hepatitis B (HBV). It mean an individual can have hepatitis B and hepatitis D at the same time. It is transmitted through exposure to contaminated blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. Transmission can occur through the transfusion of infected blood/ blood product, by contaminated needles or injections used during a medical procedure.
Hepatitis D can be prevented by receiving a vaccination for hepatitis B.​​

Hepatitis D symptoms are similar to Hepatitis B. These include

Fever

Fatigue

Jaundice

Pain in Lower Abdomen

Nausea

Vomiting

Muscle or joint pain

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E (HEV) causes infection of the liver. This type of Hepatitis can lead to acute liver failure. HEV is transmitted through the fecal-oral route, thus primarily contracted through contaminated food or water. Most people can recover within a few months as it does not develop into a chronic disease like other forms of hepatitis.

Symptoms

HEV usually comes with no symptoms, thus often difficult to identify on the basis of symptoms. However, you can start noticing a few symptoms around 2 to 8 weeks after you have contracted the disease. The probable symptoms are similar to those of hepatitis A and include

Fever

Vomiting

Decreased appetite

Weight loss

Fatigue

Nausea

Muscle or joint pain

Diarrhea

Jaundice symptoms

These symptoms are normally short-lived and are usually gone within 2 months.

How is hepatitis diagnosed?

  • Anti HCV
  • HBsAg
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test

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Tips to prevent hepatitis

Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene is one key way to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. So, Hepatitis A and E can be prevented by avoiding

  • Local Water
  • Ice
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish and oysters
  • Raw fruit and vegetables

Hepatitis B, C, and D contracted through contaminated blood can be prevented by:

  • Not sharing drug needles
  • Not sharing razors
  • Not using someone else’s toothbrush
  • Not touching spilled blood

Hepatitis B and C can also be contracted through sexual intercourse and intimate sexual contact. Practicing safe sex can help decrease the risk of infection.

Vaccines

The use of vaccines is an important key to preventing hepatitis. Vaccinations are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B.

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
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer

When your liver is damaged and stops functioning normally, liver failure can occur. Complications of liver failure include:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • A buildup 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 buildup of toxins, like ammonia, that affect brain function
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a form of liver cancer
  • Death

People with chronic hepatitis B and C are encouraged to avoid alcohol because it can accelerate liver disease and failure. Certain supplements and medications can also affect liver function. If you have chronic hepatitis B or C, check with your doctor before taking any new medications.