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Hepatitis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment
Hepatitis can be described as inflammation of the liver and it is usually caused by viral infection. It may pass without causing any damage to the liver but sometimes it can advance to serious issues such as loss of certain liver functions or fibrosis which is scarring of the liver or cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer (1, 2).
Types of hepatitis
Most of the hepatitis cases are caused by virus. Sometimes there may be other causes also such as toxic substances such as certain drugs, alcohol and autoimmune diseases (1, 2).
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis D
- Hepatitis E
- Hepatitis caused by alcohol
- Autoimmune hepatitis
Hepatitis A and E are generally caused because of consuming contaminated food and water. Certain sex activities also may be the reason for developing hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is caused by contact with infected bodily fluids such as infected blood, semen or other body fluids during sex, sharing needles or other equipment while taking drugs or from mother to baby at birth. It may occur because of blood transfusion with infected blood.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which also occurs because of sharing needles and other equipment while taking drugs. Hepatitis D occurs only among people who have hepatitis B and it is transmitted on coming in contact with infected blood.
Symptoms of hepatitis (3)
Sometimes there may be no symptoms and a person may not even be aware of having hepatitis. If there are symptoms, they could be
- appetite may be lost
- nausea and vomiting
- urine may be dark in colour and pale coloured stools
- stomach pain
- feeling tired all the time
- itchy skin
- muscle and joint pain
Treatment for hepatitis (1)
Usually, hepatitis A resolves by itself and there is no specific treatment for it but to manage the symptoms. It passes in a couple of months but sometimes it can become very serious.
There is a vaccination for hepatitis A and it is given when a person is at a high risk of getting it or is travelling to a region where hepatitis A is very common. Antibodies produced to fight hepatitis A infection are present for the rest of life. The best way to prevent this infection is to get vaccinated (4).
In most cases, adults are capable of fighting the hepatitis B virus and get better in two months. But for children when they are infected it may turn into a long-term chronic infection. This can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
Antiviral medication can be used to treat hepatitis B. Vaccination is available and is given to people who are at high risk for developing hepatitis B like health care providers. To prevent hepatitis B, it is better to get vaccinated (4).
Most of the time there are no specific symptoms in people with hepatitis C and it appears like a person is affected with flu. People are not even aware that they are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Majority of the people fight off the hepatitis C virus only for a few it may become a chronic infection and it may cause liver cirrhosis or liver failure. But it can be treated with antiviral medications. At the moment there is no vaccination for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis D needs hepatitis B in the body to survive. When both these viruses are present in the body for a long period it can lead to grave problems such as cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis D but hepatitis B vaccine can have a protective effect from hepatitis D also.
Hepatitis E does not require any treatment as it is mild and short-term infection. But for people who have a weakened immune system it may cause a serious problem.
Precautions can be taken such as drinking clean water and consuming hygienically made food especially in areas where there is poor sanitation to prevent hepatitis E. Vaccines have been developed to prevent hepatitis E but they are not still available easily (2).
This type of hepatitis is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. It does not have any warning symptoms and therefore people may not know they have it. Sometimes it causes a sudden onset of jaundice and liver failure in some people.
Avoiding taking alcohol may allow the liver to recuperate. But excessive drinking may lead to liver cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Alcoholic hepatitis can be prevented if you restrict the amount of alcohol you drink.
This condition occurs when the immune cells start treating their own liver cells as foreign objects and attack it. What causes the immune system to behave in this manner is not known.
It can be treated by giving medication to reduce inflammation and suppressing the immune system.
Some of the above conditions can be prevented by taking vaccinations and some by avoiding taking drugs and alcohol. Also take care and consume safe drinking water and food.
- National Health Services (2019). Hepatitis
- World Health Organization (2019). What is hepatitis?
- Medline Plus (2019).
- Centers for Disease Control and prevention (2019). Hepatitis A.