Hepatitis- Types, treatments and prevention

Hepatitis is one common name, which you often hear around you. It can be a causal infection to something very destructive for the health. You might have thought that how come one same infection is sometimes minor and other times lethal?

Here is the answer to all common misconceptions with correct answers to your questions.

What is hepatitis about?

Hepatitis is a medical condition, which shows the damage to the liver. Not many people know, but hepatitis is a viral infection. This doesn’t mean that all types of hepatitis are virally spread; the reasons to get it are variable.

One type of hepatitis is the autoimmune type, which is when virus affects the immunity. Second is medicine-induced hepatitis, which doesn’t mean that you have encountered a virus. Instead, it is a result of certain medications.

The organ, which is damaged in hepatitis, is your liver. It is located on the upper side of the abdomen. The healthy liver performs some body functions for you. Some of which are as follows.

  • It produces bile, which helps in better digestion.
  • It helps to filter the toxin materials out of the body.
  • It excretes the waste products, i.e., bilirubin, hormones, drugs leftovers and cholesterol out of the body.
  • It helps to break down the complex molecules, i.e., carbohydrates.
  • It helps in activation of specific enzymes.
  • It one primary function is to store glycogen which is sugar and some nutrients, i.e., vitamins.
  • It aids in protein synthesis.

To your surprise, hepatitis is so common that nearly 4.4 billion Americans are suffering from it, as published by the report of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One needs to know the necessary details of hepatitis for the timely diagnosis and treatment options.

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What are the major types of Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is not just one infection. It has multiple times, some of it are common, and the rest are lethal. The major types of hepatitis are as follows.

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis D
  • Hepatitis E

There is not just one virus that is responsible for hepatitis. Each form of hepatitis has a different virus to induce it.

Hepatitis A is an acute and minor infection, which has a short life. Other forms of hepatitis such as type B, C, and D are chronic and can be lethal too. Hepatitis is acute, but if a pregnant woman gets it, it becomes a major problem.

Here is a brief description of each one of them.

  • Hepatitis A/ Jaundice

Hepatitis A is the least harmful among all types of hepatitis. A virus that is called Hepatitis A virus or HAV causes it. You have a high risk to get this particular infection from contamination.

If you consume a contaminated water or food which this virus, you are more likely to get hepatitis A. The good news is that it is easily treatable.

  • Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is one chronic form of hepatitis. Another specific virus that is called Hepatitis B virus or HBV causes it. The transmission of hepatitis B virus is not through food and water but with body fluids.

The body fluids such as vaginal secretions, semen or blood are the primary reasons to spread it. Either a contact with the person directly through sexual mode or using a contaminated syringe or razor can get you hepatitis B.

  • Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C virus or HCV causes hepatitis C. It is also a chronic disease like hepatitis B. The mode of its spread is through the body fluids, i.e., semen, blood, vaginal secretions, etc. It has affected 2.7 to 3.9 million Americans for now.

  • Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is the most dangerous type of hepatitis. It is a severe infection of the liver, which is due to the hepatitis D virus or HDV. Hepatitis D is also called delta hepatitis. It is transmitted through the contact with blood.

For some reason it is dependent upon hepatitis B to spread, without it, hepatitis D cannot multiply. In other words, you can say that hepatitis B and D are interlined and most likely to occur together. Hepatitis D is not as familiar as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

  • Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is also a food and waterborne disease, which is acute as, compared to hepatitis B, C and D. It is usually transmitted when the hygienic measures are not adequately followed. It is uncommon in the USA but very common in Asia and Africa.

What are the secondary causes of hepatitis?

It’s not always the virus that causes hepatitis, which you get from a person or through contamination. There are other reasons to get hepatitis too. For example,

If you are an excessive drinker, you are more likely to get a liver infection. For most of the times, it is hepatitis, but this particular type of hepatitis is called alcoholic hepatitis. In extreme cases, it damages the liver cells causing a permanent liver failure.

Some medicines also result in hepatitis. Not the usual dose of these drugs can cause hepatitis, but only the prolonged use or the overdosing amount is responsible for it.

One rare case is when the immune system fails to recognize liver as a visceral organ. It attacks it and causes inflammation. This inflammation stops the liver to perform its standard functions, and it is more likely to end on hepatitis. It hits women more than men.

How should you know if hepatitis is hitting you?

There are some most basic signs, which starts to show if you have hepatitis virus inside you. However, you must know that it is only valid for the hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis B and C are usually asymptomatic which means they won’t show any effect.

For the acute hepatitis infections, the common symptoms are as follows.

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Flu
  • Change of color of urine to dark yellow
  • Pale colored stool
  • No appetite
  • Abrupt weight loss
  • Belly pain
  • Yellowness of eyes
  • Yellowish skin

It is only standard in hepatitis A and E to have these symptoms. For the rest, there are no symptoms, and it takes so much time to develop a chronic condition like hepatitis C and D.

Possible treatments for hepatitis

Hepatitis has treatment options available, but they only work if someone follows them completely. These treatment options are different for different types, i.e., acute and chronic. Your doctor will decide that what kind of treatment would suit you.

Treatment options as per each type of hepatitis are as following.

  • Hepatitis A treatment

Hepatitis A is usually mild, and it doesn’t need treatment. As described earlier it has a very short life. The treatment options are just to relieve the patient from the discomfort during this infection.

For example, it is common to experience vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea when one is suffering from hepatitis A. In this case, the medicines and the instructions will be mainly to decrease these effects and not for killing the virus.

The patient needs proper care, medication, eating, and hydration routine to get rid of hepatitis A as soon as possible. The vaccine of hepatitis A is available for people, for most of the people they are given this vaccine in early ages, i.e., 18 months to 12 years of age.

A new formula vaccine, which works for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B, is available which is only for adults.

  • Hepatitis B treatment

Talking about the treatment options, there is no actual treatment for hepatitis B. The patient may be given the antiviral medicines, but this is a costly treatment. Hepatitis B hits people belonging to the developing countries where this treatment cost is even more expensive.

Another thing to know is that for chronic hepatitis, the treatment is not short termed, but it can prolong to years. It requires regular medical evaluation sessions to understand what is the status of the virus.

Vaccine for hepatitis B is available for kids and adults. It is available as separate or combined along with hepatitis A. Most of the children are vaccinated for hepatitis B after their initial years of birth.

  • Hepatitis C treatment

The treatment options for hepatitis C are available in the form of antiviral medications. The chronic stage of hepatitis C infection is given multiple combinational medicines. It is a more complicated and extensive process.

There are chances that no treatment works for the patient. It is because the natural mechanism of viral spread is also continuous. Medicines may not work for a particular person who has a modified version of hepatitis C virus.

At this level, patients are also likely to get related infections, i.e., cirrhosis. It is the scarring of the liver, which mostly attacks the patients of hepatitis C patients. The best treatment option for these patients is to get a liver transplant.

There is no option to get a vaccine for hepatitis C, but it is under research.

  • Hepatitis D treatment

There is entirely no treatment for hepatitis D. As it is one unusual type of hepatitis, there is not sufficient research and drug development made for this particular type of chronic hepatitis.

Due to low prevalence, it only attacks a few individuals. It is treated by the medicines of hepatitis B and the vaccination for hepatitis B somehow also works for hepatitis D. As it is necessary to have hepatitis B infection to get hepatitis D.

If hepatitis B is prevented by vaccination, hepatitis D is least likely to have in the patients.

  • Hepatitis E treatment

Hepatitis E is least harmful among all these types. It doesn’t have a specific method of treatment rather it gets treated with the generic medication. It goes away on its own after completing the lifespan of the virus’s life.

One needs to take care of his diet and water intake at this time. The rest is suggested for all sufferers of hepatitis. In this way, the time passes, and virus naturally completes its life hence no more hepatitis infection is occurred.

Only for pregnant women, this treatment needs seriousness. There are specific medical options available to help the expectant mothers to get rid of hepatitis E.

  • Autoimmune hepatitis treatment

The type of hepatitis, which is due to the improper functioning of immune system, is called autoimmune hepatitis. In this case, medicines such as corticosteroids, i.e. prednisone or budesonide are helpful.

It is not as such dangerous if one gets the right treatment for it on time. An additional medicine that may help is Azothioprine, which is given along with steroids or separately, depending on the severity of the infection.

A general medical practice includes giving the immune-suppressing medicines that can be any of the famous brand names. Some examples of it are mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (Prograf) and cyclosporine (Neoral).

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How can you prevent the chance of hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a viral disease, which means if you don’t have contact with the virus, you are safe. It suggests that the only precaution that you have to follow is to avoid the virus at any cost.

For this, following suggestions can be helpful.

Take care of the hygiene

Good hygiene guarantees a lesser risk of getting sick. It is same for hepatitis too. If you take care of what you eat, drink or use, there is the least risk to get hepatitis.

Take special care if you are traveling abroad, especially to a developing country because they are at a higher risk of hepatitis than the rest of the world. Avoid using local water, ice, raw foods, salads and things like that.

For hepatitis B, C and D, you need more specialized care. Do not use a contaminated medical tool. In case your partner is suffering from hepatitis, don’t make a sexual contact with her/him. Some additional tips are as follows.

  • Do not touch any body fluids of any person.
  • Do not touch spilled blood.
  • Always use new syringes.
  • Always use new razors.
  • Never share your toothbrush and other private stuff with anyone.
  • Try to follow safe sex practices, i.e., condom.

Go for hepatitis vaccines

Good news is that hepatitis vaccines are readily available. The vaccine is a pre-selected way to prevent the risk of hepatitis. It stops the body to get hepatitis A and B only.

More specialized research is undergoing which will soon formulate the vaccines for hepatitis C. Hepatitis E vaccine is available at only some particular countries, but all others are available everywhere.

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Possible future complications caused by Hepatitis

There are no future complications with acute hepatitis. But for chronic hepatitis, the case is different. Both of these can produce a very destructive effect on health. Patients with chronic hepatitis are more likely to have any of the following.

  • Cirrhosis
  • Cancer
  • Another chronic liver disease
  • Liver failure

In any case, if the liver stops acting healthy, you can get plenty of infections such as.

  • Internal bleeding
  • Fluid accumulation in abdomen
  • Kidney failure
  • Portal hypertension
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma

Those who are suffering from chronic, i.e., hepatitis B and C are life-threatening. They need more care, and the treatment options are very prolonged with these cases.

If one doesn’t stop alcohol, smoke, and other related factors, the chances are that liver will face a permanent damage like liver failure or kidney failure.

Take a specialist doctor’s advice on it. Change your lifestyle and follow the instructions given to you by your health service provider seriously.

Sources

  • https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/default.htm
  • http://www.who.int/features/qa/76/en/
  • https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm
  • http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hepatitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0027053/
  • http://www.hepb.org/
  • https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/viral-hepatitis