Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition has multiple aetiologies, it can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. 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.

The liver is an essential organ in the body that has multiple functions. It is the body’s largest internal organ located on the right-hand side of the abdomen. Among other functions, the liver;

  • Makes many of the chemicals and vitamins required by the body to function normally, such as: vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K
  • Bile production that helps with food digestion.
  • Breaks down and detoxifies substances in the body, and it also acts as a storage unit.
  • Makes proteins and blood clotting factors.
  • Breaks down medications and drugs, including alcohol, and is responsible for breaking down insulin and other hormones in the body.

 

TYPES

The 5 main viruses known to cause hepatitis are referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. People with chronic forms of hepatitis B and C are at risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is most common in people living in areas with poor sanitation, this virus most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food, or certain sex practices.

 Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is transmitted through exposure to substances from persons infected with the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) such as infected blood, semen, and other body fluids. injection drug use, needle stick injuries, or from infected mothers to infants.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is caused by hepatitis C virus. Like hepatitis B is mostly transmitted through exposure to contaminated blood and blood products, injections drug use and sexual contact.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D infections occur mainly in people who are infected with hepatitis B. The dual infection of Hepatitis D virus (HDV) and Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can result in a more severe disease state and poor prognosis. HDV is contracted through exposure to contamination blood.

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E comes from Hepatitis E Virus, transmission is by consumption of contaminated water or food. HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developed countries.

 

OTHER CAUSES

Toxins

Alcoholic hepatitis is excessive consumption of alcohol resulting in liver damage and inflammation. In severe cases it can lead to liver failure and cirrhosis, a thickening and scarring of the liver. Medications overuse or overdose and exposure to poisons can cause liver damage.

Autoimmune

Autoimmune, the immune system mistakes the liver as harmful object and begins attack on it causing mild to severe inflammation and affecting normal liver function. Autoimmune hepatitis more common in women than in men.

 

SYMPTOMS

If you have chronic infection of hepatitis, like hepatitis B and C, you may be asymptomatic. In most cases symptoms may not occur until the damage affects normal liver function.

Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis include:

  • extreme fatigue
  • fever
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes),
  • dark urine
  • pale stool
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • unexplained weight loss
  • mental changes may occur in some people, such as coma

 

DIAGNOSIS

History and physical exam

Patients history is a crucial part to every diagnosis, your doctor will take your history to determine risk factors you may have for hepatitis. During a physical examination, your doctor may palpate your abdomen for sign pain or tenderness. He may also feel to see if your liver is enlarged, skin or eyes are yellow which could suggest jaundice.

Liver function tests

Liver function tests are a group of tests done using blood samples to determine the state of your liver. Abnormal results suggest a problem, especially if you don’t show any signs on a physical exam of liver disease. Increased levels of liver enzyme may indicate stressed, damaged, or malfunctioning liver.

Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the organs within your abdomen. taking a closer look at your liver and surrounding organs.

Liver biopsy

A liver biopsy is procedure that involves taking a sample of tissue from your liver. It can be done through your skin with a needle. Ultrasound is used as a guide during the procedure. This test is used to determine how your liver has been affected.

 

PREVENTION

Personal Hygiene

Hepatitis B, C, and D contracted through infected blood can be prevented by not sharing items like drug needles, razors, toothbrushes and avoiding contact with spilled blood

Also, safe sex practice by using condoms and dental dams can help decrease the risk of hepatitis B and C infection.

Vaccine

Vaccines are safe forms of disease prevention. Vaccines are available to prevent Hepatitis A, B and E viral infections. But there is currently no vaccine for Hepatitis C virus. Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis D, the disease can still be prevented by vaccinating against hepatitis B.

 

TREATMENT

Treatment options for hepatitis are determined by the particular type of hepatitis infection that is diagnosed and whether the infection is acute or chronic. Some types of hepatitis infection may require the use of antiviral or other medications while some other types do not need any drug intervention but resolve on their own.

Autoimmune hepatitis can be treated with corticosteroids like prednisone when detected early.

 

 

Sources:

LiveScience – https://www.livescience.com/34735-hepatitis-symptoms-treatment.html

Hepatitis – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/

Hepatitis – https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis

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