A Complete Guide to Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment of Hepatitis
The inflammation of the liver tissues is called hepatitis and the most common cause is a viral infection but it may also be caused by autoimmunity disorders. The following article covers all the details about this deadly disease.
Causes of Noninfectious Hepatitis
Almost 50% of cases of Hepatitis are linked with chronic alcoholism.
The role of the liver in the human body is to detoxify harmful substances by converting them into less harmful forms and then removing them altogether. The liver detoxifies the alcohol and removes it from the body but excessive consumption damages the liver cells and causes inflammation. This is referred to as Alcoholic Hepatitis. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption over a long duration of time causes permanent damage to liver cells and leads to cirrhosis of the liver (thickening and scarring of the hepatic tissues).
Drugs and Poisons
Overuse or misuse of drugs and ingestion of poison like cyanide also damages the liver and leads to Hepatitis.
In autoimmune diseases, the body recognizes its cells as foreign bodies and manufactures antibodies to work against them. It causes damage and inflammation of the hepatic lobules. The incidence of autoimmune diseases is three times more common for women than men.
Types of Hepatitis
There are three main types of Hepatitis; Hepatitis A, B and C. Furthermore, there are two other minor types of Hepatitis; D and E that are relatively less common. Each type has its distinct characteristics and method of transmission but some symptoms are more common in all the types that help in the primary diagnosis.
Hepatitis can be of two types; acute (lasting for six months or less) and chronic (lasting for a year or more). Hepatitis is a viral disease and five different viruses have been identified as a causative agent of the disease.
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis
Symptoms of Hepatitis appear only when the hepatic tissues are functionally impaired in case of chronic Hepatitis. In acute Hepatitis, the onset of symptoms is usually quick.
Some of the common symptoms include;
- Muscle pain
- General body weakness
- Flu-like symptoms
- Runny nose
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Yellowing of skin and eyes that is a classic symptom of jaundice
Causes of Viral Hepatitis
All three common types of Hepatitis are caused by viruses.
Hepatitis A virus is present in contaminated food or water. The virus is commonly found in open water pools, lakes, and unclean rivers. The virus is transmitted via the fecal-oral route.
The Hepatitis B virus is spread by the exchange of body fluids between healthy and infected individuals.
Hepatitis C is commonly spread by the use of intravenous needles or subdermal infections especially while injecting narcotics and other illegal drugs.
Hepatitis E is a water-borne disease that is more common in areas with poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. It is not very common in the United States.
Alcohol, drugs, and chemicals do not cause Hepatitis E but they aggravate the cirrhosis or inflammation of the liver.
Hepatitis Is Fatal But Preventable!
Practicing good hygiene can eliminate 90% risk of many different fatal diseases. Hepatitis A and E can be prevented by adopting healthy practices and good hygiene especially if you are traveling to a developing country.
- Do not consume water from open sources like taps, springs, geysers, etc.
- Consume freshly prepared food only.
- Do not share personal instruments like toothpaste, towel, razor, etc with anyone else.
- Always consume clean bottled, filtered, boiled or chlorinated water.
- Do not consume raw or undercooked fruits, vegetables, meat, and kinds of seafood especially oyster, crab, and shellfish.
How Can Hepatitis B be Prevented?
According to the World Health Organization, Hepatitis B caused over one million deaths across the world in 2015.
The Hepatitis B infection can become chronic and lead to serious complications including cirrhosis of the liver and hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatitis B is commonly transmitted by the following means:
- By the exchange of body fluids (like blood, saliva, serum, etc) between an infected and normal person.
- Sharing needles for injecting illegal drugs or steroid etc
- At hair salons and barber shops, special care should be taken. Sharing instruments like scissors, razors, and blades can spread Hepatitis.
- Sharing instruments of personal care like toothbrush, nail cutter, trimmer or razor with the infected person.
- If an infected person bites or scratches a healthy individual
- Creating tattoos with unsterilized needles
- An infected mother can pass the infection the baby during delivery and breastfeeding
- Sharing and usage of the same manicure/pedicure instruments on multiple clients at nail salons.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
If you ever suspect any of the above-mentioned symptoms, immediately visit a primary care doctor near you and seek medical help. Hepatitis can completely be cured with prompt treatment and prevention.
The diagnosis is made on the basis of the following tests;
- Physical examination to detect pain or tenderness and enlargement of the liver
- Color of skin and conjunctiva of eyes
- Liver function test
- Renal function test
- Your doctor may advise an ultrasound to take a closer look at your liver to understand the presence of fluid in the pleural cavity, rate of liver enlargement and abnormalities of gall bladder.
Treatment of Hepatitis
It is near impossible that the cases of Hepatitis heal without any treatment by the immune system of the body. The defense mechanism of the body can fight against it if the viral load is low but sometimes, it can cause scarring of hepatic tissues or liver cirrhosis that requires treatment.
For HAV, primary care physicians advise patients to avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking. In most of the cases, patients recover without intervention.
The patients of HBV need to undergo antiviral drug therapy and are strictly advised to take complete bed rest and refrain from any physical activity.
Primary care doctors in New York City, and around the country usually will prescribe antiviral drugs with or without riboflavin. Treatment aims to stop the virus from multiplying in the body.