What Is Hepatitis?
Inflammation of the liver leads to the development of various types of Hepatitis. Typically, it is a viral infection, however there are other causes of hepatitis. For example, autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis, which could also be caused by medicines, toxins, drugs and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is caused by the formation of antibodies against the liver tissue.
Why the Liver Is Important
The upper portion of the abdomen holds your liver, performing many critical activities that support metabolism in the body. These functions include:
- Production of bile, necessary for digestion
- Toxin filtration in the body
- Excreting bilirubin (bi-product of breaking of blood cells), hormones, cholesterol and drugs
- Disintegration of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
- Activating enzymes (proteins needed for body functions)
- Storing glycogen, minerals and vitamins
- Amalgamation of albumin — a type of blood protein
- Factors encompassing the clotting of blood
Nearly 4.5 million Americans are suffering from hepatitis B and hepatitis C, including people who are unaware of their ailment. Depending on which type of hepatitis you have, there are different treatment options available. In terms of prevention, some types of hepatitis can be avoided by making changes to your lifestyle, and others through immunizations.
The Different Types of Hepatitis
Types of hepatitis infections are classified as type A, B, C, D and E. Different viruses are responsible for each type of hepatitis.
Hepatitis A — is infused by Hepatitis A virus (HAV), transmitted commonly through water and food that is contaminated by a person with hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B — this type of virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood, vaginal secretion or semen of people infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). Using previously injected needles or having sex with an infected person can cause a risk of contracting hepatitis B. According to source nearly 350 million people globally live with this disease.
Hepatitis C — is transmitted through direct contact with people suffering from hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis D — also known as delta hepatitis, is a very chronic disease caused by hepatitis D virus (HDV). A rare type of hepatitis, it can be contracted in concurrence with a hepatitis B infection, which acts as a catalyst.
Hepatitis E — identified in environments with poor sanitation, hepatitis E is a waterborne disease that is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV).
Causes of the Various Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes infection in the liver cells. It is usually caused by consuming food items like veggies, fruit or water infected with HAV, that were contaminated during handling. It can also happen after consuming raw shellfish harvested from water that has the virus in it.
The virus causes inflammation and can also be transmitted by injecting drugs and through oral-anal contact during sexual intercourse.
This viral infection (HBV) attacks the liver and is spread through infected blood, semen and some other bodily fluids. It is also transmitted through unsafe tattoo techniques and can even spread as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Also, pregnant women infected with Hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth.
Other causes include sharing household items such as: toys, toothbrushes, razors, and other sharp objects. The infection can also be spread by sharing needles or syringes, tattooing, acupuncture and ear piercing (if the instruments are contaminated with HBV and not properly sterilized before use).
This type of hepatitis is contagious and largely arises due to per-cutaneous (through the skin) infection. It is usually spread through the saliva or semen of an infected person, sharing syringes, narcotics and a lack of infection control in healthcare settings.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
Hepatitis signs and symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
- Sudden nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Urine which is dark yellow in color
- Pain in the joints
- Jaundice (white of eyes and skin becomes yellowish)
- Intense itching
- Stomach pain (hepatitis B, C)
- Pale or clay-colored stool (hepatitis A, C)
These symptoms may be relatively mild and go away in a few weeks. Sometimes, however, hepatitis A infection results in a severe illness that lasts several months.
How to Treat the Different Types of Hepatitis
The treatment plan for hepatitis is driven by the infection type and intensity.
Being a short-term illness, hepatitis A is usually treated with bed rest, if it is causing a lot of discomfort. In cases of vomiting and diarrhea, it is recommended to keep yourself hydrated and visit a doctor.
HAV can be prevented, if vaccination is done in time. Usually administered to children at the age of 12 to 18 months, the vaccines are given twice — even to adults. It can also be combined with the hepatitis B vaccine.
Antiviral medicines are available to treat hepatitis B. However, this treatment could turn out to be quite difficult, as it needs to be continued for a long time. It also requires routine medical check-ups to understand if the treatment has been effective.
Vaccination is not available for hepatitis C. Both acute and chronic hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines. People suffering from chronic hepatitis C are treated with a combination of medicines.
Again, a follow up treatment for these conditions to check progress is required. Under severe conditions, patients might even require a liver transplant.
Unfortunately, there are no medications available to treat hepatitis D. According to a study, alpha interferon can be used to treat some cases of hepatitis D.
However, the effectiveness of this drug is only seen in about 30% of patients. The vaccination for hepatitis B can be used as a preventive measure for hepatitis D, as the former is a cause of the latter.
There is no medication currently available to treat hepatitis E, as the infection is very acute, and it can only be resolved on its own. People suffering from hepatitis E are recommended to have an adequate intake of liquids, take ample rest and follow a diet with enough nutrients.
Pregnant woman with hepatitis E are also recommended to undergo regular monitoring and care.
Preventive Measures Against the Types of Hepatitis
Good hygiene is key to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. Especially when traveling to developing countries, avoid drinking water from local taps, raw food, seafood, fruits and vegetables.
The possibility of getting hepatitis B, C and D can be reduced by avoiding contaminated blood. This can be done by not sharing needles, shaving razor blades, toothbrushes or touching spilled blood. Also, practice safe sex with contraceptives.
Using vaccination is the best way to avoid hepatitis — prevention is easier than treatment. Vaccines to prevent hepatitis A & B are available and can be administered, while researchers are trying to develop vaccines for hepatitis C.