Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Untreated hepatitis may lead to serious consequences. Viral infections are the most common cause of hepatitis. There is a difference in the spreading and treatment of various hepatitis infections. A liver transplant may also be required in some cases.
Hepatitis is the condition wherein the cells of the liver are inflamed. It causes damage to liver cells. The condition may sometimes be self-limiting. However, in other cases, it progresses to more serious conditions. The majority of hepatitis cases are due to viral infection. The other causes of hepatitis include autoimmune disease, presence of toxins, and taking certain drugs. When the liver cells are inflamed and damages, the functioning of the liver reduces or come to halt. That is when the patient starts experiencing symptoms. The treatment of hepatitis is provided based on the cause and severity of symptoms.
Types And Spread
Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by specific types of viruses. These viruses have the potency to attack the liver. Based on the type of viruses that causes the disease, hepatitis is named as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Following are the type of hepatitis:
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A virus is the causative agent for Hepatitis A infection. This virus spread through the intake of water and food contaminated with the hepatitis A virus.
Hepatitis B: This infection is caused due to hepatitis B virus. This virus is spread through contaminated body fluids, semen, or vaginal secretions. This infection is also caused by sharing needles and razors, and sexual intercourse with an infected person.
Hepatitis C: Hepatitis B is developed when a healthy person comes in contact with the body fluid of an infected person.
Hepatitis D: The development of this infection is in conjugation with hepatitis B. It also spreads through body fluids.
Hepatitis E: Hepatitis spreads when the hepatitis virus contaminates the water supply. The risk increases with poor sanitation.
Facts About Hepatitis
As World hepatitis day is on the cards (28th July), you should know certain facts about hepatitis. Hepatitis is listed in the top ten list of the largest killer in the world. Some facts about hepatitis are:
It may lead to cancer: Early diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent the progression of the disease. Chronic hepatitis damages the liver and may cause liver cancer. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C significantly increases the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Many patients are asymptomatic: Hepatitis, in its early stages, does not show any symptoms. The symptoms are experienced by the patients when they have significant damage in the liver due to viral infection.
Poor hygiene and poor sanitation may lead to hepatitis: Many forms of hepatitis are caused due to poor hygiene. People who drink water and food contaminated with the hepatitis virus may contract this infection.
Alcohol deteriorates the condition: Strictly avoid alcohol while you are undergoing treatment for hepatitis infection. Drinking alcohol significantly increases the risk of death from hepatitis C infection.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C: Although there are vaccines against hepatitis A and hepatitis B there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, however, through treatment, hepatitis C can be cured.
Most patients do not have early symptoms of hepatitis infection. The symptoms of hepatitis experienced by the patients include:
- Mild fever
- Pain in the abdominal cavity
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Undiagnosed or untreated hepatitis may lead to serious and life-threatening complications. These complications are:
Cirrhosis: Hepatitis may progress to liver cirrhosis. Patients with liver cirrhosis experience symptoms such as jaundice, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, confusion, and vomiting blood. The patient is prone to recurrent infections.
Liver failure: Hepatitis may progress to damage a significant part of the liver. Thus, the liver is unable to perform vital functions. This condition is called as liver failure.
Hepatocellular carcinoma: Some types of hepatitis infection results in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer. Comprehensive diagnosis and effective treatment of hepatitis are important to prevent complications.
Various treatment and preventive options for hepatitis infection are available.
Vaccines: Vaccines helps in preventing some types of hepatitis infection such as hepatitis A and B. In some countries, the vaccine for hepatitis E is also available.
Hygiene: Proper hygiene is very important in preventing hepatitis infection. Avoid drinking water where there is a high risk of contamination. Further, do not share personal objects such as razors or toothbrushes.
Treatment depends upon the type of hepatitis infection. Hepatitis A does not require any specific treatment while chronic hepatitis B is treated through antiviral medications and constant monitoring. Direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) are effective against hepatitis C. Liver transplant is done in patients with liver failure.