Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is a tissue’s reaction to irritation or injury which generally results in swelling and can cause pain. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, or liver cancer if left untreated. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), 300 million people across the world are infected with Hepatitis, yet unaware of it and do not undergo treatment. It is essential to be proactive about your liver health and get tested for hepatitis. Over time, untreated hepatitis B or C can cause hardening and scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver, which can cause complications like liver cancer or liver failure.
Types of Hepatitis
There are at least five different types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D and E.
Hepatitis A is spread by either direct contact with an infected person’s faeces or by indirect faecal contamination of food or water.
- Light stool
- Dark urine
Maintaining high levels of hygiene, before and after meals, while cooking and after using the washroom is a good way to prevent hepatitis A. Take the Hepatitis A vaccination.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be spread through:
- Body fluids
- Mother to child
Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain
A blood test helps diagnose Hepatitis B. There is a vaccine available to protect people at high risk for the infection. Practice safe sex, do not share needles or razors, and get tattoos done only at hygienic places.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is most commonly spread by exposure due to contaminated blood or needles, and unsafe sex. Symptoms for HCV are similar to other types of hepatitis. There’s no vaccine available for Hepatitis C.
Unlike the other forms, hepatitis D can’t be contracted on its own. It can only infect people who are already infected with hepatitis B. People with HBV often develop hepatitis D (HDV).
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is found in underdeveloped areas of the world and is spread by the faecal/oral route. The risk factors for hepatitis E are related to poor sanitation, contaminated drink water, and poor personal hygiene.
Hepatitis: Myths & Facts
Myth: All Hepatitis viruses are the same.
Fact: Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E are different viruses with different modes of transmission and clinical manifestations. While Hepatitis A and E are transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food, Hepatitis B and C are transmitted by blood transfusion, unprotected sex, and tattoos. Hepatitis D occurs only in patients with Hepatitis B.
Myth: All patients with Hepatitis have jaundice.
Fact: Absence of jaundice does not rule out acute hepatitis viral infection, which can present sometimes only with constitutional symptoms such as fever, vomiting, poor appetite, lethargy with high liver enzymes.
Myth: Hepatitis is hereditary
Fact: Hepatitis is not a genetic disease and is not inherited. However, Hepatitis B is often transmitted from mother to child during childbirth. This can be prevented if the Hepatitis status of the mother is known and the newborn is vaccinated on time.
Myth: If one gets hepatitis A, then one is immune to the other forms of hepatitis.
Fact: Patients with Hepatitis A get lifelong protection against hepatitis A only. One is still at risk of infection with other forms of hepatitis like B, C, and E.
Myth: Hepatitis virus cannot survive outside the human body
Fact: Hepatitis B virus can survive in dried blood for up to 7 days and remains capable of causing infection. Hepatitis C virus can survive on environmental surfaces for up to 16 hours.
Myth: Vaccine is available against all types of Hepatitis virus.
Fact: Vaccines are available only against Hepatitis A and B.
Here are some health tips to follow to protect your liver health and to prevent the spread of the highly infectious viral Hepatitis infection:
- Don’t have unsafe sex.
- Don’t inject illegal drugs.
- Don’t drink alcohol as it harms your liver and makes your hepatitis worst.
- Don’t share any personal items such as razors or toothbrushes.
- Speak to your doctor about getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
- Follow strict food safety guidelines.
Hepatitis in India
With an estimated 40 million people suffering from chronic Hepatitis B and six to 12 million people infected with Hepatitis C, Hepatitis has become a public health concern in India. Viral Hepatitis caused by Hepatitis Viruses A, B, C, D and E is a huge economic and social burden on the affected individuals and their families. Low awareness levels and lack of timely treatment may damage your liver health.
Concerned about any jaundice like symptoms? Suspect Hepatitis? Specialists at our Department of Hepato Pancreato Biliary help you with further diagnosis and testing. The team supports Hepatitis patients with a complete recovery plan. For more information about Hepatitis and its treatment please visit: https://www.kokilabenhospital.com/departments/clinicaldepartments/hepatopancreatobiliary.html