Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Several conditions cause the liver to become inflamed and stop working entirely or at a reduced capacity.
Viral infections, alcohol consumption, several health conditions, and some medications are all known causes of this condition. However, viral infections are the most common cause of hepatitis and specifically the large and growing hepatitis alphabet family A-to-E.
In this blog article, I will explain the different types of hepatitis, their common symptoms, causes, and how to treat and prevent the condition in a layman’s version.
What Is Hepatitis
Hepatitis currently has five main viral classifications: A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of viral hepatitis, and the World Health Organisation figures estimate that globally around 355 million people live with one of the hepatitis family members. The two most aggressive and predominant are Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
HAV is an acute, short-term disease acquired by contact with the HAV virus. The hepatitis A virus is highly infectious and spreads when traces of faeces contaminate hands, objects, fluids, or food. Anyone can be infected with hepatitis A if they ingest food, fluids, or traces of the virus on objects contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.
Fast-food chains and restaurants are typically the source point for Hepatitis A infection.
HBV causes hepatitis B. HBV is often an ongoing, chronic condition. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 257 million people worldwide currently live with this condition. The virus is passed from person to person through blood, semen, or other body fluids.
It does not spread by sneezing, coughing or droplets inhaled.
HCV is among the most common bloodborne viral infections and typically presents as a long-term condition. Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.
Tattoo parlours that do not correctly sterilise their equipment also rank high among the causes of contracting Hepatitis C.
HDV is a rare form of hepatitis that only occurs in conjunction with a pre-existing hepatitis B infection. HDV causes liver inflammation like other strains, but a person cannot contract HDV without an existing hepatitis B infection.
HEV is a waterborne disease that results from exposure to the hepatitis E virus. Hepatitis E is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting faecal matter that contaminates the water supply. It is rare in developed countries as a source point, but travellers to third-world countries can contract Hepatitis E while in the country and discover it when they return home some weeks or months later.
Hepatitis E is usually acute and can be particularly dangerous to the foetus in pregnant women.
How Hepatitis Is Diagnosed
To treat hepatitis correctly, it is crucial to understand what strain of hepatitis you have contracted. Doctors will use blood tests, liver function tests, ultrasound and a liver biopsy to diagnose your condition accurately and treat it accordingly.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis
Infection from a chronic form of hepatitis, like hepatitis B and C, may not show any symptoms until the liver function has been compromised and damage has already occurred. By contrast, due to their severity, people with acute hepatitis like A and E may present with symptoms shortly after contracting a hepatitis virus.
Common Symptoms Of Infectious Hepatitis Include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
Complications Of Hepatitis
Because the Hepatitis virus affects the liver, people with chronic hepatitis B or C are at risk of:
- chronic liver disease
- liver cancer
- Liver failure
Complications Of Liver Failure Include:
- Bleeding disorders
- Kidney failure
- A build-up of fluid in your abdomen, known as ascites
- Increased blood pressure in portal veins that enter your liver, known as portal hypertension
- Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a form of liver cancer
- Hepatic encephalopathy can involve fatigue, memory loss, and diminished mental abilities
People with chronic hepatitis B and C should avoid alcohol as 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 or herbal vitamins and supplements.
There is no cure for hepatitis, but treatment and management options exist. Prevention goes a long way to protecting you from any exposure. If you are travelling to a foreign country, it is strongly recommended that you get the right vaccinations at least six months before departure.