Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation or swelling of the liver that occurs when liver tissues are injured or infected. It can be caused by several viruses (viral hepatitis), chemicals, drugs, alcohol, certain genetic disorders, or an overactive immune system (autoimmune conditions) that could damage the liver. This swelling and damage can affect how well the liver functions.
Hepatitis can be acute, which flares up suddenly and then goes away, or chronic, which is a long-term condition with progressive symptoms. Some types of hepatitis viruses cause only acute infections, whereas other types can cause both acute and chronic infections.
Chronic liver infection and inflammation could damage the liver parenchyma (tissue) and lead to complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer. Thus, it is extremely vital for early diagnosis and treatment of chronic hepatitis to prevent these complications.
4 causes of hepatitis
Types of hepatitis come with different causes, which include:
- Viral hepatitis is the most common of all types and is caused by one of several viruses including hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E.
- Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by excessive alcohol use.
- Toxic hepatitis can be due to certain poisons, chemicals, medicines, or supplements.
- Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic type. In this, the body's immune system attacks and causes damage to the liver.
How is viral hepatitis spread?
Hepatitis A and E usually get transmitted through contact with food or water that was contaminated with an infected person's stool. Moreover, one may get hepatitis E by consuming undercooked pork, deer, or shellfish.
Hepatitis B, C, and D spread through blood transfusion with someone who has the disease. Hepatitis B and D may spread through contact with other body fluids in situations such as sharing drug needles or having unprotected sex.
Who is at a risk of hepatitis?
Risks vary between the types of hepatitis. For example, with most of the viral types, the risk of infection is higher if a person is involved in unprotected sex, sharing needles, or consuming contaminated food or water. People who drink too much alcohol over long periods are at an increased risk of alcoholic hepatitis.
9 symptoms of hepatitis
Some people with hepatitis do not show any symptoms and are unaware of their infection. If the patient does exhibit symptoms, they may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
In acute infection, symptoms may show up anywhere between two weeks to six months after the infection. In chronic infection, symptoms do not show up until many years later.
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
To diagnose hepatitis, the healthcare provider may perform the following methods:
What treatments are available for hepatitis?
Treatment mainly depends on the type and course of hepatitis. Acute viral hepatitis may go away on its own. Rest and enough fluids are recommended for symptomatic relief. However, in serious cases, patients may require treatment in a hospital.
Different medicines are available to treat various chronic types of hepatitis. Other possible treatments may include surgery and other medical procedures.
People who have alcoholic hepatitis may need to give up drinking. In cases of liver failure or liver cancer, a liver transplant is needed.
Can hepatitis be prevented?
There are different ways to prevent or lower the risk of hepatitis, depending on its type. Not drinking too much alcohol can prevent alcoholic hepatitis. Vaccinations are now available to prevent hepatitis A and B. However, autoimmune hepatitis cannot be prevented.
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Hepatitis C (HCV, Hep C)Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is usually spread by blood transfusion, hemodialysis, and needle sticks, especially with intravenous drug abuse. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and fever. Chronic hepatitis C may be cured in most individuals with drugs that target specific genomes of hepatitis C.
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Hepatitis A and B Vaccinations
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are the two most commnon viruses that infect the liver. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B can be prevented and treated with immunizations (vaccinations) such as Havrix, Vaqta, Twinrix, Comvax, Pediarix, and hepatitis b immune globulin (HBIG).
Hepatitis C, Hep B, Hep A: Symptoms, Causes, TreatmentHepatitis C, B, and A are viruses that cause liver inflammation. Hepatitis B vaccines and hepatitis A vaccines are available. Hepatitis symptoms may not appear for weeks to months after infection. Hepatitis A transmission occurs most often via contaminated food. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C transmission require contact with infected bodily fluids or blood.
What Is Viral Hepatitis? How You Catch Hepatitis A, B, and CHepatitis C virus and hepatitis B can make an infected person very sick and they are risk factors for liver cancer, liver disease, liver failure, and liver damage. Prior to 1992, blood transfusion was a risk for contracting hepatitis C infection. Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne infections, while hepatitis A is easier to catch, but less serious.
How Does a Person Get Hepatitis?There are various types of hepatitis, which a person can get by food or water contaminated with the fecal matter of an infected person, sexual contact, blood transfusion, sharing needles, direct contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluid, transfer from mother to the fetus, tattoo needles, or needle prick.
Is Hepatitis B Contagious?
Hepatitis B is a type of liver infection. Hepatitis B is spread through person-to-person contact or through personal items like razors, toothbrushes, etc. Symptoms of hepatitis B include fever, yellowish skin (jaundice), dark urine, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. There is no drug to cure hepatitis B; however, there is a hepatitis B vaccine available.
Is Hepatitis Contagious?Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver," and there are several different types of such as A, B, C, D, and E. Some types of hepatitis are contagious and some types are not. Hepatitis symptoms vary upon the type of disease; however, the following symptoms may develop in someone with hepatitis: fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and discomfort, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), and loss of appetite. Treatment for hepatitis depends upon the cause. Some types of hepatitis have a vaccine to prevent spread of disease such as hepatitis A and B.
What Is the Normal Range for Hepatitis B Surface Antibody?Learn about how the hepatitis B surface antibody test works, and how its results indicate whether you are immune to the virus or not.
Hepatitis (Viral Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, G)
Hepatitis is most often viral, due to infection with one of the hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, E, F (not confirmed), and G) or another virus (such as those that cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus disease). The main nonviral causes of hepatitis are alcohol and drugs. Many patients infected with hepatitis A, B, and C have few or no symptoms of illness. For those who do develop symptoms of viral hepatitis, the most common are flu-like symptoms including: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, weakness, tiredness, and aching in the abdomen. Treatment of viral hepatitis is dependent on the type of hepatitis.
What Does it Mean If You Have Urobilinogen in Your Urine?Urobilinogen is a substance that is produced when bilirubin, a waste product produced by the breakdown of red blood cells, is processed in the liver and released into the intestine. Excess urobilinogen in urine may indicate liver diseases, such as viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, or liver damage. It is caused by drugs, toxic substances, or conditions associated with increased red blood cell destruction (hemolytic anemia). In a person with low urine urobilinogen and/or signs of liver dysfunction, it can be indicative of hepatic or biliary obstruction.
What’s Worse, Hepatitis A, B, or C?Because there is no vaccination available against hepatitis C, hepatitis C is often considered worse than hepatitis A or B.