Hepatitis – The silent Killer: The modern treatment option
Hepatitis means injury to the liver with inflammation of the liver cells. There are five main types of hepatitis and the type is commonly determined by a laboratory test. Hepatitis can be healed on its own with no significant consequence, or it can progress to scarring of the liver. Acute hepatitis lasts under six months, while chronic hepatitis lasts longer.
Most liver damage is caused by 3 Hepatitis viruses, called hepatitis A, B and C. However, hepatitis can also be caused by alcohol and some other toxins and infections, as well as from our own autoimmune process (the body attacks itself). About 170 million people globally are thought to be affected by hepatitis C, while 300 million people are thought to be carriers of hepatitis B.
Not all forms of hepatitis are infectious. Alcohol, medicines, and chemical may be bad for the liver and cause inflammation. Obesity can be a cause of liver damage which can lead to inflammation. These are known as non-infectious, because they cannot spread form person-to-person.
Types of Hepatitis:
There are five main types of hepatitis that are caused by a virus, A, B, C, D, and E. Apart from these, there are two other types of Hepatitis X and G which are not significant.
This is caused by eating infected food or water. The food or water is infected with a virus called HAV (hepatitis A virus). Anal-oral contact during sex can also be a cause. Nearly everyone who develops Hepatitis A makes a full recovery – it does not lead to chronic disease.
This is one of the members of STIs (sexually transmitted Infections). It is caused by the virus HBV (hepatitis B virus) and is spread by contact with infected blood, semen, and some other body fluids.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes both acute and chronic infection. Acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, and is only very rarely associated with life-threatening disease. About 15–45% of infected persons spontaneously clear the virus within 6 months of infection without any treatment.
The remaining 55–85% of persons will develop chronic HCV infection. Of those with chronic HCV infection, the risk of cirrhosis of the liver is 15–30% within 20 years.
Hepatitis D or delta hepatitis is caused by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV), a defective RNA virus. HDV requires the help of a hepadnavirus like hepatitis B virus (HBV) for its own replication.
The virus like delta agent was subsequently shown to be associated with the most severe forms of acute and chronic hepatitis in many HBsAg-positive patients. The disease it caused was designated delta or type D hepatitis.
A person can become infected by drinking water that contains HEV (hepatitis E virus). The liver swells but there is no long-term consequence. Infection is also possible through anal-oral sex.
If a hepatitis cannot be attributed to the viruses of hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E, it is called hepatitis X. In other words, hepatitis of an unknown virus.
This is a type of hepatitis caused by the hepatitis G virus (HGV). Usually there are no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they are very mild.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
Many people with hepatitis experience either mild symptoms or none at all. Be noted that an infected person’s feces are always infectious to other people. When symptoms appear, they usually do so about 15 to 180 days after the person has become infected.
Symptoms of acute phase of hepatitis
The initial phase of hepatitis is called the acute phase. The symptoms are like a mild flu, and may include: Diarrhea, Fatigue, Loss of appetite,Mild fever, Muscle or joint aches, Nausea, Slight abdominal pain, Vomiting, Weight loss.
The acute phase is not usually dangerous, unless it develops into the fulminant or rapidly progressing form, which can lead to death.
As the patient gets worse, these symptoms may follow:
Dizziness, Drowsiness, Enlarged spleen, Headache, Hives, Itchy skin, Dark urine. Light colored feces, the feces may contain pus, Yellow skin, whites of eyes, tongue (jaundice).
Treatment of Hepatitis:
There is no treatment specifically for hepatitis A. The doctor will advise the patient to abstain from alcohol and drugs during the recovery. The vast majority of patients with hepatitis A will recover spontaneously.
A patient with hepatitis B needs to take rest. He will require a diet that is high in protein and carbohydrate – this is to repair damaged liver cells, as well as to protect the liver. If this is not enough, the doctor may prescribe interferon. Interferon is an antiviral agent.
A patient with hepatitis C will be prescribed Pegylated interferon and Ribavirin. Patients with chronic hepatitis C who are receiving standard HCV treatment may benefit significantly by taking vitamin B12 supplements. Apart from conventional interferon there, the development of Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) e.g. Sofosbuvir, Daclatasvir, Simeprevir, Ledipasvir etc. brings the revolution to treat Hepatitis C. Combination of DAAs have a very good synergistic effect and used commonly now a days.
Hepatitis D or E
So far, there is no effective treatment for either hepatitis D or E.
If the patient has non-viral hepatitis, the doctor needs to remove the harmful substance. It will be flushed out of the stomach by hyperventilation or induced vomiting. Patients with drug-induced hepatitis may be prescribed corticosteroids.
We have split this list of prevention tips into the individual variation types of hepatitis.
How to prevent hepatitis A
Wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet
Only consume food that has just been cooked
Only drink commercially bottled water, or boiled water if you’re unsure of local sanitation
Only eat fruits that you can peel if you are somewhere where sanitation is unreliable
Only eat raw vegetables if you are sure they have been cleaned / disinfected thoroughly
Get a vaccine for hepatitis A if you travel to places where hepatitis may be endemic.
How to prevent Hepatitis B
Tell the partner if you are a carrier or try to find out whether he/she is a carrier
Practice safe sex
Only use clean syringes that have not been used by anyone else
Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or manicure instruments
Have a hepatitis B series of shots if you are at risk
Only allow well sterilized skin perforating equipment (tattoo, acupuncture, etc.).
How to prevent hepatitis C
If you are infected do not let others share your toothbrush, razor, manicure equipment
If you are infected cover open wounds
Do not share needles, toothbrushes, or manicure equipment
If your skin is to be pierced, make sure equipment is well sterilized (tattoo, etc.)
Go easy on the alcohol
Do not share drug equipment.
How to prevent hepatitis D
Use the same guidelines as for hepatitis B. Only a person who is infected with hepatitis B can become infected with hepatitis D.
How to prevent hepatitis E
Do the same as you would to protect yourself from hepatitis A infection.