Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation, commonly caused due to viral infection, but there are other causes of hepatitis. They vary from autoimmune hepatitis to non-viral modes such as- medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
What are the 5 types of Hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis includes hepatitis virus A, B, C, D, and E. These strains of the virus are responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is most often transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by faeces from a person infected with hepatitis A. Hepatitis A usually does not need treatment because it is a short-term illness. Bed rest is recommended if symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen, containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Unsterilised injection, drug use, having sex with an infected partner or sharing razors with an infected person increase your risk of getting hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a highly contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact. 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.
Hepatitis D is only contracted through direct contact with infected blood. It is a rare form of hepatitis that only occurs in relation with hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis D can be prevented by getting the vaccination for hepatitis B, as infection with hepatitis B is necessary for hepatitis D to develop.
Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis E is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting fecal matter that contaminates the water supply.
Causes of non-infectious Hepatitis:
Alcohol and toxic substances-
Excessive alcohol consumption, an overdose of medications and exposure to poisons can cause liver damage and inflammation. These toxins directly injure the cells of your liver. Over time, it can cause permanent damage and lead to liver failure i.e. cirrhosis.
Autoimmune system response-
In some cases, the immune system mistakes the liver as a harmful object and begins to attack it. It causes ongoing inflammation that can range from mild to severe, often putting a stop to liver function.
What are the commonly seen symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:
- dark urine
- pale stool
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice
Chronic hepatitis, such as Hepatitis B and C develops gradually, so these signs and symptoms may be too subtle to notice.
What is the diagnostic procedure?
Family History and physical exam-
To diagnose hepatitis, past history is used to determine any risk factors you may have for infectious or non-infectious hepatitis. During a physical examination, your doctor will gently press the abdomen to see if there’s pain or the liver is enlarged. If your skin or eyes are yellow, this is also noted.
Liver function test-
Liver function tests use blood samples to determine how efficiently your liver works. High liver enzyme levels may indicate that your liver is stressed, damaged, or not functioning properly.
An abdominal ultrasound uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the organs within your abdomen. This test allows your doctor to take a close at your liver and nearby organs. It can reveal:
- fluid in your abdomen
- liver damage or enlargement
- liver tumors
- abnormalities of your gallbladder
A biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves taking a sample of tissue from your liver. It can be done through your skin with a needle and doesn’t require surgery. It can also be used to sample any areas in your liver that appear abnormal.
What are the preventive measures?
Practicing basic hygiene and sanitation is a key way to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. In case of travel to another country, you should avoid:
- local water
- raw fish, fruit, and vegetables
Hepatitis B, C, and D can be prevented by:
- not sharing drug needles, razors, toothbrush etc.
- not touching spilled blood
- Practicing safe sex
Vaccinations are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B. Scientists are currently developing vaccines against hepatitis C.