Hepatitis is a serious medical condition that involves an inflammation of the Liver due to the presence of inflammatory cells in the tissues of the organ. Liver is the largest organ of the body as it weighs about 3 pounds and it plays a lot of functions in the human body. It manufactures blood proteins that help in the clotting and oxygen transportation. It also takes care of the functioning of the immune system. Liver manufactures bile which is needed for storing sugar in glycogen form and digesting food in the body. There are more than 100 types of diseases affecting men, children and women worldwide. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death, according to National Institute of Health.
Cirrhosis of liver is a disease in which the liver gets replaced by scar tissues which becomes an obstruction in its proper functioning. The scar tissues blocks the blood flow in liver, slowing down the break down of hormones, drugs and toxins. Hepatitis is a term used for inflammation of liver. Hepatitis may be an acute case, lasting for a short duration or a chronic one lasting for more than six months. Cirrhosis of liver is commonly caused by hepatitis c, fatty liver and alcohol.
But certain inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis or chronic viral infections of liver like hepatitis B, C and D can also cause liver damage. Other infection is HPV (Human papillomavirus) which is a DNA virus affecting humans. It is caused by having sexual intercourse with the infected. HPV only grows in skin whereas others grow in mucous membranes, which may lead to either liver damage or cancer. There are different types of hepatitis one can get.
Types of hepatitis
As discussed above, liver inflammation can be caused by various illnesses. But hepatitis viruses mainly attack the liver. The types of hepatitis viruses includes A, B, C, D, E and G. Type A, B, C are the most commonly found. If Hepatitis does not belong to any of the virus family then it is hepatitis X. Hepatitis G is caused by HGV hepatitis G virus. Every year, almost 17000 Americans get affected by hepatitis C and an estimate of 3.2 million people in United States live with hepatitis C chronic infection. Globally there are 250 million sufferers of hepatitis C and 300 million of hepatitis B. The types of hepatitis contraction may vary. In case of viral hepatitis, the duration of the disease depends on the virus causing it.
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Causes of Hepatitis virus
Hepatitis A is caused by foods and drinks containing faecal matter. It is not very dangerous and never leads to inflammation of liver. Severe illness may require hospitalization and every year around 100 people die of liver failure from A type. People travelling to developing countries, men indulged in sex with other men, people having oral or anal sex and drug users are the ones on risk of getting hepatitis A. Hepatitis B virus is commonly spread through sex or by sharing needle of drug users. A child can also get this virus from his mother during birth as well. People with kidney failed need to undergo hemodialysis procedure that filters blood at the risk of developing hepatitis B virus. Mostly adults infected by the virus become better and those who are unable to fight the disease become carriers. Carriers have the potential to infect others whose signs and symptoms already vanished. Adults may also develop chronic hepatitis B and pass the virus to others. Hepatitis C spreads through use of polluted or used needles. Hepatitis C can cause mild symptoms. The affected persons may also develop cirrhosis within 30 years. Hepatitis C rarely spreads through sex. People who are infected with hepatitis B virus are most likely to get Hepatitis D virus also. It may spread through sex or from mother to her child. This is a less common virus but is dangerous as it involves working of two viruses. Hepatitis E virus is common in Asia, Mexico, India and Africa. Rare cases have been found in America. It spreads through fecal contamination and is more dangerous causing deaths in pregnant women.
Symptoms to detect hepatitis virus
People who are suffering from hepatitis virus show no or some mild symptoms. Initially symptoms may include like mild flu or:
- Loss of appetite
- Mild fever
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Initial stage of hepatitis is not dangerous but when it spreads rapidly it may lead to death of a person. When the condition worsens the symptoms includes:
- Dizziness (only toxin/drug-induced hepatitis)
- Drowsiness(only toxin/drug-induced hepatitis)
- Dark urine
- Headache(only toxin/drug-induced hepatitis)
- Skin itching
- Yellow-coloured skin and whitening of eyes
These common symptoms might be followed by more severe ones, depending on the type of Hepatitis. A person’s condition after initial stage depends only on the type of hepatitis he got. One must consult a doctor immediately as chronic hepatitis may cause cirrhosis of liver or liver cancer.
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Hepatitis B infection may damage the liver before showing any signs and symptoms, so doctors test healthy people for B type infection. Blood tests and liver tests are used to diagnose hepatitis virus. Some of the blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis B virus are as follows:
- There is a test to determine whether one can pass Hepatitis B virus to others. In this test, the doctor finds hepatitis B surface antigen which is a part of outer surface of virus. The positive result means the person has hepatitis B infection and it may spread to others as well.
- There is another test to determine whether one is immune to HBV. The anti-HBs test detects whether one has antibodies to the Hepatitis B virus. The presence of antibodies can be because of HBV infection or could also mean that a person has already been vaccinated. Positive outcome means the virus would not spread as you are already protected by vaccines.
- The anti-HBc test detects people who are suffering from infection. Positive result may mean you have chronic infection that can spread to others. It could also mean that you have recovered from acute infection. This test is dependable on the above two test results.
If the doctors diagnose HBV, then he may check liver health. There is test to determine how often one can spread infection to others, the amount to know about HBV, DNA in blood and tests to measure liver functioning.
After diagnosing Hepatitis virus, it becomes necessary to treat the infection and prevent it. Mostly people who get Hepatitis A or E virus get better in weeks. For those with hepatitis A virus, immunization is available for children ageing between 1-18 years. Proper bed rest and medication becomes necessary to get relief. Severe hepatitis is either treated by a hepatologist or gastroenterologist. Drug therapies are available for people suffering from all types of Hepatitis virus. If the liver gets damaged, liver transplant is the best cure. During the procedure, damaged liver gets replaced by a healthy liver.
A doctor may also recommend antiviral medicines for HBV if it is chronic:
One may also opt for a vaccine of hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours of getting the virus. In case the infection is acute, treatment would not be needed. The doctor will try to reduce signs and symptoms by recommending blood tests to make sure that you are immune from the virus now.
Hepatitis is a silent killer, killing around 1.4 million people every year. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E have affected many people worldwide. World Hepatitis day is organized on July 28. It aims to provide information and create awareness about disease prevention and control. All types of Hepatitis virus may affect the health of a person, but Hepatitis B and C can result in chronic infection so one must prevent it before it takes your life.
The chances of catching the infectious Hepatitis virus is pretty high. So, why not get educated on the disease symptoms and cure. Share this blog and post any health-related comments that you may have.
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