Viral Hepatitis: Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment
Viral Hepatitis – Overview
The liver is the largest and most vital internal organ. The liver is essential for digesting food and getting rid of toxic substances from the body. In case the liver is inflamed or damaged, it fails to function normally. Excess alcohol consumption, toxins, several health conditions, and certain medications can all cause hepatitis. However, it is often caused by viral infection.
This article attempts to do an in-depth detailed study about the types of hepatitis, its symptoms, causes, complications, treatment, and prevention.
What is viral hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis means the inflammation (damage to the tissue that causes swelling and redness of the affected organ) of the liver caused by a virus. Hepatitis can be acute, which flares up suddenly and then goes away, or chronic, which is a long-term condition that can result in more intense symptoms, which can cause liver damage.
There are five main strains of hepatitis virus, based on the type of virus responsible to cause liver inflammation, viral hepatitis is classified as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The types of viral hepatitis are as follows.
The hepatitis A virus causes hepatitis A (HAV). It is an acute infection and typically gets better without treatment after a few weeks.
Hepatitis B comes from the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This type of hepatitis can be acute or chronic. It often does not show any symptoms but still, people can spread the virus.
Hepatitis C is the result of an infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). This can be an acute or chronic infection. Affected individuals can carry the virus without showing any symptoms.
Hepatitis D is a rare form of infection, which can only affect a person infected by the hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus. This type of infection is waterborne and is common throughout the world. Hepatitis E is typically an acute infection that gets better with treatment after several weeks. However, hepatitis E can be particularly dangerous in pregnant women.
What are the causes of viral hepatitis?
People are more likely to get hepatitis if they are born to mothers infected by the hepatitis virus. Here are a few ways through which a virus can infect a person.
|Types of hepatitis||Route of transmission|
|Hepatitis A||Exposure to HAV contaminated food and water. Infected person's stool.|
|Hepatitis B||Contact with HBV-infected person's body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretion.|
|Hepatitis C||Contact with HBV-infected person's body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretion.|
|Hepatitis D||Contact with HBV-infected person's body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretion.|
|Hepatitis E||Exposure to HEV-contaminated food and water.|
What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?
Chronic hepatitis like hepatitis B and C may not show any signs and symptoms until it drastically affects the functioning of the liver. However, the most common symptoms of acute hepatitis may include:
- Dark urine
- Yellow skin or eyes whites (jaundice)
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?
It is important to understand what is causing hepatitis to be able to effectively treat the condition. Based on the medical history, physical examination, and signs and symptoms of the person, the doctor may recommend the following tests for the diagnosis of viral hepatitis.
A liver function test uses a blood sample to determine how efficiently the liver works. A high level of liver enzyme indicates an abnormality in liver function. As a result, further, the doctor may recommend another blood test to determine the cause of the liver abnormality.
The blood test can help determine the presence of the hepatitis virus and the level of antibodies produced to fight the virus.
In confirmation of viral hepatitis, the doctor may recommend a liver biopsy if required depending on condition In this procedure, a small piece of liver tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. This test helps to assess the severity of the liver damage that may be caused by the hepatitis virus.
An abdominal ultrasound uses sound waves to produce an image of the internal organs. This can help the doctor to have a closer look at the liver and its surroundings. The ultrasound image of the liver can show any damage caused due to infection, enlargement of the liver or any development of tumours in the liver.
What are the complications associated with viral hepatitis?
Hepatitis A and E cause acute viral hepatitis. The most dismaying complication of acute viral hepatitis is liver failure, which may require immediate liver transplantation. However, liver failure is very rare in acute hepatitis.
Hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can cause chronic, or long-lasting infections. In chronic hepatitis, the body may not be able to fight the virus and the disease may progress. This may further lead to liver cirrhosis, which is the scarring of healthy liver tissue that permanently damages the liver. It can also cause liver cancer and liver failure.
How to treat viral hepatitis?
It is important to consult your doctor and get timely treatment for viral hepatitis to prevent complications.
Hepatitis A and E are acute and short-term illnesses, which may not require any Specific treatment Sometimes. It resolves on its own and requires good bed rest and nourishment.
In the case of hepatitis B and C, the doctor may recommend anti-viral medications.
For hepatitis D, the doctor may prescribe drugs with interferons. This medication has some serious side effects. Therefore, these medications are restricted for use by people having liver cirrhosis, psychiatric conditions and autoimmune diseases.
What can be done to prevent viral hepatitis?
For the prevention of viral hepatitis, anyone who is not previously vaccinated should take the hepatitis A and B vaccines. Taking vaccination can for hepatitis B prevents the development of hepatitis D. However, currently, there are no vaccines for Hepatitis C and E.
How do people live with viral hepatitis?
Firstly, people with viral hepatitis can expect a long life. Viral hepatitis is a medical condition that can be effectively managed if a person can take good care of their health and liver.
- People with hepatitis usually quit smoking and alcohol.
- They take their medications regularly and follow all the instructions given by their doctor.
- They follow safe sex and do not share their toothbrush or any of their personal belongings with others, as they may contain a tint of their body fluids.
- They cover open wounds as the blood may spread the virus.
The Bottom line
Viral hepatitis disease is contagious and can spread through body fluids, food and water. However, it can be effectively treated with antiviral medications and prevented with vaccination. It is ideal to consult the doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of viral hepatitis before it's too late.
To book an appointment with some of the best hepatologists in Hyderabad, call Gleneagles Global Hospital, Lakdi-ka-pul
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