Hepatitis is an infectious disease that is killing around 1.4 million people every year around the globe. World Hepatitis Day, a WHO campaign, is observed every July 28th to raise awareness of this deadly infection. WHO encourages people to prevent hepatitis, get diagnosed and seek early treatment. This year’s theme for World Hepatitis Day is “Test. Treat. Hepatitis”. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Hepatitis from causes to symptoms, treatment and prevention.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and damage of liver cells. This inflammation usually occurs due to viral infection. Other causes can include autoimmune hepatitis (where the body produces antibodies against the liver tissue) and hepatitis that occurs due to the adverse result of medication, drugs, toxins and alcohol.
Why is hepatitis harmful?
The Liver has various functions that are critical to the proper working of the body such as filtering toxins from the body, regulating metabolism, breaking down carbs, fats and proteins and synthesis of blood proteins and clotting factors.
Every major body system depends on the liver in some way or the other. Though the liver can heal itself to some extent, when the liver cells are damaged beyond repair it can have deathly consequences.
Types of Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis can be classified as types A, B, C, D and E. Hep A is acute and short-term, whereas Hep B, C and D can progress to chronic. Hep E is also acute but can be dangerous for pregnant women.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause Alcoholic Hepatitis. As your liver breaks down the alcohol and processes it, too much drinking puts additional stress on the liver, therefore damaging the cells and causing inflammation. Alcoholic hepatitis is fatal as it can lead to liver failure and cirrhosis.
An overdose of medication, as well as consumption of poisonous chemicals, can also cause Hepatitis. These chemicals can even be from the food you eat.
In the case of autoimmune hepatitis, the body mistakes the liver as a harmful object and attacks it. The inflammation can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
- Fatigue, muscle and joint aches
- Abdominal pain and vomiting
- Loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss
- Early signs of jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
Signs and symptoms appear quickly in cases of acute hepatitis. However, for chronic cases of hepatitis, symptoms may not show up until there is significant damage to the liver. Liver Disease can be silent for a long time. On World Hepatitis Day, encourage your family and friends to get themselves tested if they show any symptoms.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
If your doctor suspects you have hepatitis, a simple blood test can confirm the same. Usually, a Liver Function Test can determine if you have a liver infection. Other tests include an abdominal ultrasound and liver biopsy.
Treatment of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A doesn’t need rigorous treatment as is it acute and doesn’t have long-lasting effects on the body. Doctors recommend bed rest, hydration and nutrition.
Acute Hepatitis B has no specific treatment, but chronic hepatitis should be treated with antiviral medication, which can be costly.
Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medication. In severe cases of Hep C, where the liver has developed cirrhosis, you may have to get a liver transplant to restore the liver function.
There are no treatments available for Hepatitis D and E. With plenty of fluids and get enough rest, the infection will subside on its own.
Vaccinations are available for prevention against types A and B of hepatitis. Vaccinating against Hep B can prevent Hep D as well. Apart from vaccination, here are some health tips you can follow to prevent hepatitis:
- Maintain good hygiene
- Practice safe sex
- Do not share personal items like razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes
- Sterilize any skin piercing equipment
- Avoid alcohol or consume only in moderation
- Keep track of medications and get regular tests to ensure there is no damage to the liver
- Avoid contaminated food and water
Complications from hepatitis can be severe, ranging from cirrhosis to liver cancer. Damage to the liver also puts the body at risk of kidney failure and even death. So avoid alcohol and practice prevention for a healthy liver. Share these prevention measures with your loved ones and help keep them safe from Hepatitis.
Let’s spread the awareness this World Hepatitis Day and Make India Healthy.
Author: Manju Athilat
Manju is our resident content writer. With a masters degree in biomedical engineering and a passion for healthcare, she authors content with a focus on living a healthy lifestyle and practicing preventive health.