Hepatitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

July 31, 2023 0
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Hepatitis is a condition in which our liver faces inflammation. This inflammation occurs due to several viruses (viral hepatitis), substances, medications, alcohol, certain genetic abnormalities, and an overactive immune system that mistakenly assaults the liver (autoimmune hepatitis), along with other factors.

Hepatitis can turn into a chronic condition that typically causes progressive liver damage. Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E are the five primary hepatitis virus subtypes. Every hepatitis type is caused by a different set of viruses. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 354 million people worldwide today suffer from chronic hepatitis B and C.

Hepatitis types

Hepatitis A- Most commonly a food-borne illness, hepatitis A can spread through polluted water and unwashed food. It is easily transmittable, especially in children, but also has the lowest risk of liver damage. Hepatitis A is often mild, and patients can recover completely in six months.

Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B spreads through contaminated blood, needles, syringes, and bodily fluids from mother to child. This can develop into a fatal condition and can develop into liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Hepatitis C – Spread through infected blood from mother to child, Hepatitis C can also lead to damage to liver function and cancer.

Hepatitis D– This condition is found only in people who have been infected by Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis E – Mostly found in people from Africa, Asia, and South America, Hepatitis E is a comparatively milder condition and patients can recover from it in a matter of a few months.

Hepatitis Symptoms

Hepatitis B and C might not show any initial symptoms and can directly affect liver functions. On the other hand, people suffering from acute Hepatitis start displaying symptoms right after contracting the virus. 

Some common symptoms of Hepatitis are: 

  • Constant tiredness
  • Flu
  • Dark urine colour
  • Pale colured stool
  • Pain in the abdomen region
  • Low appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Yellow skin and eyes leading to jaundice

Causes of Hepatitis

Different Hepatitis types have varied causes. Let’s understand them in detail

  • Hepatitis A: Contamination through food and water
  • Hepatitis B: Transmitted through bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal discharge or blood
  • Hepatitis C: Coming in contact with HCV through bodily fluids
  • Hepatitis D: Blood containing HDV
  • Hepatitis E: HEV-contaminated food or water

Other common causes of Hepatitis include: 

Alcohol

Overindulgence in drinking alcohol can harm and inflame the liver. This condition is also called alcoholic hepatitis. When we consume alcohol, the liver cells are directly harmed and eventually results in irreversible harm that includes thickening or scarring of the liver tissue (cirrhosis), and liver failure. 

Autoimmune system

Sometimes the liver is attacked by the immune system because it views it as dangerous. This results in persistent inflammation that can be minor to severe and frequently impairs liver function. Women are three more susceptible than men to experiencing this

How is Hepatitis diagnosed?

Hepatitis is usually diagnosed through the following methods.

  • A physical examination is conducted. This however is not the only way as it may or may not show an enlarged, swollen liver.
  • Blood tests to look for the presence of any of the five hepatitis viruses, as well as blood tests to check for high liver enzymes that occur when the liver is harmed or infected.
  • Liver ultrasound to look for any changes.
  • Liver biopsy is another diagnosis mode used to ascertain the extent of the inflammation and understand the damage better

Hepatitis treatment

Unlike the first two kinds, Hepatitis C, D and E cannot be managed through preventive vaccination. Treatment in several Hepatitis cases focuses exclusively on controlling and managing liver damage. If possible, liver damage reversal is also seen as a course of treatment. Many Hepatitis cases heal with the passage of time and patients can get back to normal in a matter of few months. There are some medication types that control our active immune system from attacking the liver and preventing autoimmune hepatitis. 

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