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All About Hepatitis

One of the most important organs of the human body is the Liver. A healthy liver performs a number crucial functions that help keep you feeling energetic and alert. It cleans and purifies the blood, helps the body break down certain substances and create others. Most drugs are metabolized in the liver. It detoxifies the blood and stores sugars, fats and vitamins until they are needed. If the liver is damaged as a result of Hepatitis or any other reason, the energy production of the body is affected and the person feels very tired and run down.  Hence, the Liver is rightly called so, as it helps a person “live” his life to the fullest.

All About Hepatitis
One of the most common infections that affects the liver is Hepatitis. Hepatitis means inflammation (tenderness and swelling) of the liver. It may be brought about by viruses, alcohol or medicines (drugs). Hepatitis caused by viruses is called Viral Hepatitis. There are 6 distinct which can cause Viral Hepatitis –A,B,C,D,E and G.

HEPATITIS A AND HEPATITIS E:

HOW DOES THE INFECTION SPREAD?
Hepatitis A can affect all age groups.
The Hepatitis A and E viruses are contracted by consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with these viruses. They can also spread by indirect contact with an infected person’s hands or contaminated utensils. Its spread is related to over-crowding, poor hygiene and poor sanitation.
Hepatitis A can also spread by sexual route and washing of genitals and use of condoms can help prevent the risk.

WHAT IS THE COURSE OF THE DISEASE?
Once a person is exposed to the virus, it takes between 2 to 6 weeks to produce symptoms.
Within six months of infection, usually the body successfully gets rid of the virus on its own. This six months duration is referred to as the “Acute stage.” If the infection continues beyond six months, it develops into a ”Chronic stage.”

WHAT ARE ITS SYMPTOMS?
A mild attack is usually without any symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms may be:
1) like flu-mild fever and weakness or
2) like digestive problems-particularly loss of appetite and nausea or
3) like jaundice- dark urine, light-coloured stools, yellowing of the skin and the eyes or
4) hepatomegaly (enlarged and tender liver)

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?
Since the disease resolves on its own, there is no treatment required except rest and a suitable diet.
Personal hygiene, such as careful hand washing, can minimize the risk of the virus being passed on.
Immunization vaccinations are also available as a course of 2 injections 6 months apart.

HEPATITIS B AND HEPATITIS C:

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis c viruses are most deadly and potentially dangerous.

HOW DOES THE INFECTION SPREAD?
Both HBV and HCV spread in a manner similar to HIV i.e. by exchange of blood and body fluids.
HBV spreads more through sexual route and HCV spreads more through transfusion of infected blood.

WHICH ARE THE HIGH-RISK GROUPS?
The high-risk groups are individuals with multiple sex partners, infants born to infected mothers, family and household contacts to Hepatitis B carriers, blood transfusion recipients, intravenous drug abusers, Health Care Professionals including medical and paramedical staff, technicians working in nclinical laboratories etc.  There is also a risk of infection through tattooing, body piercing, or sharing razors, toothbrushes or nail files.
However, approximately one-third or more of Hepatitis  B and C cases result from unknown sources. This means that you do not necessarily have to be among the “high-risk “ groups to get infected.

WHAT IS THE COURSE OF THE DISEASE?
If the body’s immune system is able to get rid of the virus in six months (Acute stage), the liver recovers. In some patients however, their immune system does not defeat the virus and the infection continues beyond 6 months (Chronic stage), even though the symptoms may have stopped.
In chronic hepatitis B or C, the virus may continue to cause injury to the liver over a period of time, possibly resulting in severe liver damage, liver failure or even liver cancer.

WHAT ARE ITS SYMPTOMS?
In some people, chronic hepatitis B or c can cause weakness, tiredness, body aches, fever, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, mild abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dark urine or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the eyes). In others, there are no recognizable signs and symptoms and the symptoms become very obvious once the disease has progressed to advanced stages like cirrhosis or liver cancer.
However, because the symptoms are flu-like or mild or absent, many cases go undiagnosed. The only way they can be positively identified is through blood tests (Liver Function Tests).

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

In the majority of patients with active HBV, symptoms will not be severe and treatment will not be required. The patient will be monitored and after a few months the patient’s immune system should fight off the virus, giving the patient natural immunity.
There is treatment available in India for both Hepatitis B and C.
Antiviral medication is given as treatment to those with chronic symptoms to help prevent further liver damage. These medications may be injected or given in pill form. Treatment usually lasts 6 months, during which time the patient will be carefully monitored. Regardless of whether the infection is producing symptoms or not, the patient will be advised to avoid alcohol, get plenty of rest and maintain a healthy diet.
Immunization is also available for Hepatitis B. A course of three injections is administered over a period of 3-6 months. Immunity should last for at least 5 years.
Although treatment has improved in recent years, the success rates vary depending  on which genotype the patient has and how long they have had hepatitis C. it I important to remember that even if HCV treatment is effective and the infection is cleared, it does not mean the patient has future immunity to hepatitis C.

WHAT IF TREATMENT IS NOT GIVEN?
Without treatment, some patients with chronic hepatitis B or C can have their disease lead to serious liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure or probably liver cancer and death.

HEPATITIS D:

Hepatitis D virus (HDV), also known as Delta Hepatitis, is spread in the same way as HBV. However, HDV infects only those individuals who are already infected with HBV.

HEPATITIS G:

GB virus C (GBV-C), formerly known as hepatitis G virus (HGV) and also known as HPgV is a virus known to infect humans, but is not known to cause human disease. There is current active research into the virus' effects on the immune system in patients co-infected with GBV-C and HIV.
WHD Globe.jpg
"WHD Globe" by FF2011 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

REMEMBER:
  • An important part of health care is detecting diseases before symptoms occur.
  • Some diseases like viral hepatitis may not show any symptoms until the disease has progressed.
  • Almost everyone is at some risk of getting viral hepatitis. Hence, good sanitation and personal hygiene and regular blood tests go a long way in preventing the disease.

1 comment :

  1. Hepatitis, also known as the silent killer, stands completely ignored by masses in India. Dr. Nadkarni through her informative article breaks some of the myth surrounding Hepatitis & also helps spreads awareness.

    ReplyDelete