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All You Need To Know About Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can lead to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, or liver cancer. It is a sneaky and silent virus that can permanently harm the liver. Hepatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis begins suddenly, is intense, and may last for only a few weeks. Chronic hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver that lasts for at least six weeks.

Causes of Hepatitis

According to the World Health Organization, common modes of transmission for hepatitis include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products; invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment; for hepatitis B, transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child; and also by sexual contact. These causes can be broadly divided into the following major categories: infectious, metabolic, ischemic, autoimmune, genetic, and others.

Metabolic Hepatitis

This is a major cause of hepatitis and can be divided into alcoholic and non-alcoholic types.

  • Alcohol-Induced Hepatitis: This is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. This liver disease ranges in severity and reversibility from alcoholic steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
  • Drug-Induced Hepatitis: Many chemical agents, including medications, industrial toxins, and herbal and dietary supplements, can cause hepatitis. The spectrum of drug-induced liver injury varies from acute hepatitis to chronic hepatitis and to acute liver failure.
  • Non-Alcoholic Hepatitis: This occurs in people with little or no history of alcohol use. It is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and hypertriglyceridemia.

Infectious Hepatitis

Under this category, we have viral hepatitis, which comprises the most common types.

Viral Hepatitis

There are five types of viral hepatitis, and they are denoted by the letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, and E. They are a source of global attention because of their potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Most people who contract the virus make a full recovery and remain immune from further HAV infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life-threatening. Vulnerability to HAV is high in areas with poor sanitation. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids. This type is also transmitted from mother to child at birth, or a child may contract it in early childhood. In addition to the challenge of mother-child transmission, HBV poses a risk to healthcare workers as accidental needle stick injuries can occur while attending to infected patients. HBV can be prevented with safe and effective vaccines.

Hepatitis C

Transmission of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly through exposure to infective blood, including transfusions, contaminated injections, and sometimes through sexual intercourse. There is currently no vaccine for HCV.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D only occurs in people who are infected with the hepatitis B virus because HDV is an incomplete virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate. HDV can be an acute, short-term infection or a long-term, chronic infection. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. It is transmitted from ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts. HEV is usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation. There is currently no vaccine for Hepatitis E.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis

Diagnosis of hepatitis is made based on some or all of the following: a person’s signs and symptoms, medical history including sexual and substance use history, blood tests, imaging, and liver biopsy.

In general, for viral hepatitis and other acute causes of hepatitis, the individual’s blood tests and clinical picture are sufficient for diagnosis.

Prevention and Treatment of Hepatitis

For diabetes types that have safe and effective vaccines, prevention is possible with vaccination when combined with proper hygiene and caution in the use of drugs and alcohol. The treatment of hepatitis varies according to the type, whether it is acute or chronic, and the severity of the disease. Summarily, these points are worthy of note:

  • Activity, diet and drugs (not metabolized in the liver) can be used for treatment.
  • Control of viral replication is indicated in chronic infections.
  • Universal precaution should be adhered to.

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