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What Is Hepatitis? Everything You Need To Know About This Condition

Hepatitis is a serious condition that causes inflammation of the liver. It is most commonly caused by a viral infection, however, drugs, alcohol, toxins and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis [1]. Hepatitis is caused by five viruses: hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV) and hepatitis E virus (HEV).

Every year, hepatitis causes nearly 1.4 million deaths and HBV and HCV are responsible for about 90 per cent of these deaths and the rest is caused by other types of hepatitis viruses [2].

As per the World Health Organization (WHO) in the year 2015, 1 in 3 people were infected by HBV or HCV and 1.3 million people have died due to this disease.

In this article we will cover the different types of hepatitis, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

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Causes of Hepatitis

Hepatitis is most commonly caused by viruses, which is called viral hepatitis. There are other causes of hepatitis, which include the following:

  • Drinking excessive alcohol [3]
  • Overdose of certain medications [4]
  • Autoimmune diseases [5]

Healthy Diet For Hepatitis B Patients

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Types Of Hepatitis

Hepatitis virus A, B, C, D and E are responsible for causing viral infections of the liver. Hepatitis A and E is an acute form of hepatitis, while hepatitis B, C and D are a chronic form of hepatitis. If hepatitis resolves in less than six months, it is called acute hepatitis and if it lasts longer than six months, it is called chronic hepatitis.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an RNA virus that belongs to the Picornaviridae family. Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by consuming contaminated food or water contaminated with faecal matter.

Cases of hepatitis A are high in poverty-stricken areas and areas where there is a lack of access to safe drinking water.[6]

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a DNA virus that is a member of the Hepadnaviridae family. It is often transmitted through infected bodily fluids like blood, semen and vaginal secretions.

People who are the carriers of hepatitis B tend to develop chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.[7]

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an RNA virus that belongs to the Flaviviridae family. It is mainly transmitted through sharing of contaminated needles among drug users. Sexual contact is less common cause of hepatitis C. [8]

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is an RNA virus of the Deltavirus genus. It is transmitted through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D occurs if you have already been infected with hepatitis B.[9]

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is a RNA virus of the Hepevirus genus. Eating or drinking contaminated food or water contaminated with faecal matter is the most common mode of hepatitis E transmission. Hepatitis E is common in areas where there is lack of clean water and sanitation and poor hygiene. [10]

From Yoga To Milk Thistle, 6 Natural Remedies That Won't Cure Hepatitis C

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Symptoms Of Hepatitis

The most common symptoms are:

  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
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Risk Factors Of Hepatitis

  • Eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Lack of sanitation.
  • Sharing contaminated needles.
  • Having unsafe sexual intercourse.
  • Drinking alcohol excessively.
  • Overdose of certain medications.
  • Mothers infected with hepatitis increase transmission risk in children [11].

FAQs On Viral Hepatitis: What You Should Remember

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Complications Of Hepatitis

Complications of viral hepatitis include chronic active hepatitis, liver failure, liver cirrhosis, acute or subacute hepatic necrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which are most commonly seen in patients with hepatitis B or C.[12]

Complications of autoimmune hepatitis are almost similar to the complications of viral hepatitis; however, some patients can develop end-stage liver disease with cirrhosis.

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Diagnosis Of Hepatitis

Your doctor will physically examine you and ask about your medical history to find out the risk factors of hepatitis. After which, the doctor will conduct some tests which include the following:

  • Liver function tests - Blood samples are collected to check if the liver is working properly.
  • Liver biopsy - It is done by taking a tissue sample from your liver to find out how much the inflammation has affected your liver.
  • Ultrasound test - An ultrasound test is done to have a close image of your liver and other nearby organs.
  • Blood tests - Other blood tests will be conducted to check for viruses that cause hepatitis.
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Treatment Of Hepatitis

The treatment of hepatitis is done depending on the types of hepatitis and whether it is acute or chronic.

Hepatitis A

There is no antiviral therapy for hepatitis A. Patients who have symptoms like nausea or vomiting or who are showing signs of liver failure will be closely monitored by the doctors.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B treatment is divided into two categories: acute hepatitis B virus infection and chronic hepatitis B virus infection. The treatment for acute hepatitis B virus infection is similar to the treatment of hepatitis A and the treatment for chronic hepatitis B virus infection includes medications.

Hepatitis C

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no treatment recommended for acute hepatitis C, but for chronic hepatitis C the treatment is usually oral therapy for 8 to 12 weeks [13].

Hepatitis D

Patients with hepatitis D virus infection are usually treated with a medication named pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN).

Hepatitis E

The treatment for hepatitis E virus infection includes drinking plenty of water, taking proper bed rest and avoiding alcohol [14].

If hepatitis disease is caused due to autoimmune diseases, corticosteroids alone or used in combination with azathioprine, a medication is used for the treatment of autoimmune hepatitis [14].

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Prevention Of Hepatitis

  • Practice safe sex.
  • Maintain proper hygiene.
  • Get vaccinated.