What is Hepatitis? Know the cause, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment
Posted By Suborna Fermi
Posted on Apr 12, 2023
An inflammation in the liver is called hepatitis. Generally, viral infection is one of the main reasons for hepatitis. However, there are multiple reasons which can cause inflammation to the liver, including viruses, alcohol, drugs, chemicals, genetic disorders, or an overactive immune system.
Hepatitis can be severe depending on the cause and type. In this article, we will explain the types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and how to prevent hepatitis.
What are the types of Hepatitis?
1. Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a viral infection, which can be acute. This type of hepatitis is generally caused by a Hepatitis A virus. As this is a short-time infection, one may recover on their own, without any special treatment.
Symptoms of hepatitis A:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Joint pain
2. Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is the most common hepatitis infection, which is caused by Hepatitis B virus. More than one million people in India are suffering from Hepatitis B infection. This type of infection mostly affects children more than adults.
Symptoms of hepatitis B:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling with fluids in legs and hands
3. Hepatitis C: A common viral infection is hepatitis C. It spreads when a person comes into contact with an infected person’s blood. Acute and chronic are the two forms of hepatitis C infection. It can also cause serious health complications if nor treated early.
Symptoms of hepatitis C:
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Weight loss
- Easy bruising
- Easy bleeding
- Fluid buildup in abdomen
- Swelling in legs
- Dark colored urine and pale colored stool
4. Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D infection is a rare infection which is caused by the hepatitis D virus. This infection only occurs if you already have hepatitis B infection.
Symptoms of hepatitis D:
- Abdominal pain
- Poor appetite
5. Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is also a common infection in India, which results from hepatitis e virus. Usually hepatitis E infection is not very severe, however, it can be severe to pregnant women.
Symptoms of hepatitis E:
- Muscle pain
- Dark colored urine and pale stool
What is noninfectious hepatitis?
Alcoholic hepatitis or autoimmune hepatitis infections are considered as noninfectious hepatitis. The symptoms of these types of hepatitis infections are quite similar to the other kinds.
What is the cause of noninfectious hepatitis?
Hepatitis infections are generally caused by different types of hepatitis viruses. However, noninfectious hepatitis can occur due to various reasons.
- Autoimmune hepatitis: When our immune system mistakenly attacks the immune system, it can result in inflammation of the liver. Autoimmune hepatitis is usually more common in women in comparison to men, and it can cause mild to severe symptoms.
- Alcoholic hepatitis: Excessive alcohol consumption may cause inflammation in the liver, which is commonly known as alcoholic hepatitis. Alcohol damages the liver cells which over time can result in cirrhosis and liver failure.
What are the complications of Hepatitis?
Chronic stage of hepatitis B and C can lead to severe health complications. Alcohol use should be avoided by those who have hepatitis B and C since it could result in :
- Chronic liver disease
- Liver cancer
As hepatitis impairs liver functions, it can lead to liver failure. The complications of liver failure can be lethal, which include:
- Fluid buildup in abdomen
- Bleeding disorder
- Kidney failure
- Hepatic encephalopathy
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
Health history and physical examination:
Your doctor would ask you about your health history to diagnose any form of hepatitis infections. This will also help your doctor to understand if you have any risk factors. In the physical exam, your doctor would lightly press down on the abdomen area to check if there is any pain, and swelling of the liver. Your doctor may also check if there is any yellow discoloration in your eyes or skin.
Hepatitis profile test:
Most doctors usually prefer a Hepatitis profile test or hepatitis panel, because they are the primary screening test for hepatitis. However, there are also additional tests which are used to differentiate the type of hepatitis infection.
Liver function test:
Most doctors preferably suggest a liver function test, to identify how well your liver is performing. Your doctor may suggest this test to detect any liver inflammation, and disease. This test will help to detect liver damage by evaluating liver enzymes.
Other blood tests:
If the result of the liver function test is abnormal, then your doctor would perform more tests in order to confirm a diagnosis. These additional tests can help the doctors distinguish between infectious hepatitis and noninfectious hepatitis.
In a liver biopsy, a small sample of your liver tissue will be examined to diagnose a hepatitis infection. Your doctor might also recommend an ultrasound scan during this procedure.
Doctors uses abdominal ultrasound for various reasons, such as:
- It helps to detect fluid buildup in your abdomen
- Detects liver enlargement or damage
- Detects liver tumors
- Identify abnormalities in your gallbladder
An abdominal ultrasound is also very useful in order to determine the cause of liver function abnormalities.
What is the treatment for hepatitis infections?
Treatment of hepatitis depends on the type of hepatitis you have, and how chronic or acute the state is.
Hepatitis A treatment:
Hepatitis A is a short-term infection, which can be diagnosed through an anti hepatitis A virus - total test. However, this infection does not require much treatment, your doctor may recommend you to take plenty of rest. Also, maintaining hydration and proper nutrition will help to ease nausea and diarrhea.
Hepatitis B treatment:
Doctors recommend hepatitis B profile test for the diagnosis, and antiviral medication for the treatment of hepatitis B infection. This treatment is usually costly and you have to take them for several months or years. Also, regular monitoring of chronic hepatitis B infection is recommended to determine whether the treatment is working or not.
Hepatitis C treatment:
Doctors recommend antiviral medications to treat both acute and chronic stages of hepatitis C infections. Your doctor might also perform several diagnostic tests to identify the best treatment of your condition. However, people who have developed liver disease or cirrhosis, then they might require a liver transplant.
Hepatitis D treatment:
As per the World Health Organization, pegylated interferon alpha is recommended for the general treatment of hepatitis D infection. However, as this drug may cause severe side effects, it is not suggested for people having cirrhosis, autoimmune diseases and psychotic conditions.
Hepatitis E treatment:
Anti hepatitis E virus (IgM) is used to diagnose this type of hepatitis, but unfortunately, no specific treatment is available for this infection. Acute form of hepatitis E may resolve on its own. Doctors generally advise to get enough rest, drink plenty of fluids, have proper nutrition and avoid alcohol consumption in order to treat hepatitis E infection. However, pregnant women with hepatitis E infection need medical care.
Autoimmune hepatitis infection:
Doctors prescribe corticosteroids in the early stages of autoimmune hepatitis. Azathioprine is also used to treat autoimmune hepatitis. Your doctor may also prescribe Azathioprine and Cyclosporine, these drugs are effective to suppress the immune system.
How can you prevent hepatitis?
There are a few ways in which you can prevent getting viral hepatitis infections.
Vaccines are extremely important to prevent ourselves from many diseases and infections. Hepatitis A vaccines are feasible, and are hugely helpful for preventing hepatitis A infection. Hepatitis A vaccination includes 2 doses of vaccines. Children can get vaccinated after the age of 12 months, and adults can also get the vaccines.
A series of three immunizations against hepatitis B are often conducted by doctors throughout the first six months of a child's life. As per the CDC, hepatitis B vaccines can also prevent us from hepatitis D infections. However, at this present time, there are no specific vaccines for hepatitis C and E.
Minimizing the exposure:
Hepatitis infections can be transmitted from person to person by bodily fluid, food and water contact. Hence, practicing the habit of good hygiene can help you prevent hepatitis A and E infections.
Hepatitis E and A virus can stay in water. Therefore, if you traveling to a country where the rate of these hepatitis infection is high, then try to avoid:
- Local water
- Raw vegetables and fruit
- Raw or lightly cooked shellfish and oysters
As the viruses that cause hepatitis B, C, and D can transmit through bodily fluids, you can reduce your risk of infection by simple habits:
- Do not share needles
- Do not share razors
- Do not use someone else’s toothbrush
- Do not touch spilled blood
Hepatitis B and C infection can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Consider using condoms to prevent infections.
You should go to your doctors, if you are not vaccinated against hepatitis infection and if you think that you have been exposed to the virus. In some hepatitis cases, people may get better with or without proper treatment. However, in some cases hepatitis can be a lifelong condition.