According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.4 million people are currently living with chronic hepatitis B and C. Many more people don’t even know that they have hepatitis.
On World Hepatitis Day, let’s raise awareness on how we can prevent hepatitis and keep it from spreading. Let’s dive at the details.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver which is commonly caused by a viral infection. But there are other possible causes of hepatitis which includes secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
There are different types of viral infections of the liver that are classified as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by an infection by hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids. Injection drug use, having sex with an infected partner, or sharing razors with an infected person increase your risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C comes from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact.
Hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV). HDV is contracted through direct contact with infected blood.The hepatitis D virus can’t multiply without the presence of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV) and is mainly found in areas with poor sanitation and typically results from ingesting fecal matter that contaminates the water supply.
Symptoms of hepatitis
Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:
- flu-like symptoms
- dark urine
- pale stool
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice
Chronic hepatitis develops slowly, so these signs and symptoms may be too subtle to notice.
How hepatitis is diagnosed
History and physical exam
Ask your doctor to take your history and determine the risk factors you may have for infectious or noninfectious hepatitis.
Liver function tests
Your blood samples are used to determine how efficiently your liver works. If there are abnormal results of these tests,, it is the first indication that there is a problem. High liver enzyme levels may indicate that your liver is stressed, damaged, or not functioning properly.
Other blood tests
If your liver function tests are abnormal, your doctor will likely ask you to take other blood tests to detect the source of the problem. These tests can check for the viruses that cause hepatitis.
The abdominal ultrasound uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the organs within your abdomen. This test can reveal:
- fluid in your abdomen
- liver damage or enlargement
- liver tumors
- abnormalities of your gallbladder
This can be a useful test in determining the cause of your abnormal liver function.
A liver biopsy involves your doctor taking a sample of tissue from your liver. It is done on skin with a needle and doesn’t require surgery. Typically, an ultrasound is used to guide your doctor when taking the biopsy sample.
This test allows your doctor to determine how infection or inflammation has affected your liver.
Tips to prevent hepatitis
Practicing good hygiene is one key way to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis B, C, and D contracted through contaminated blood can be prevented by:
- not sharing drug needles
- not sharing razors
- not using someone else’s toothbrush
- not touching spilled blood
Using vaccines is an important key to preventing hepatitis. Vaccinations can help in the prevention of hepatitis A and B and experts are currently developing vaccines against hepatitis C.
Complications that arise due to hepatitis
Chronic hepatitis B or C can often lead to more serious health problems. Because the virus affects the liver, people with chronic hepatitis B or C are at risk for:
- chronic liver disease
- liver cancer
When your liver stops functioning normally, liver failure can occur. Complications of liver failure include
- a buildup of fluid in your abdomen, known as ascites
- increased blood pressure in portal veins that enter your liver, known as portal hypertension
- involve fatigue, memory loss, and diminished mental abilities due to the buildup of toxins, like ammonia, that affect brain function
- hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of liver cancer
People with chronic hepatitis B and C are required to avoid alcohol because it can accelerate liver disease and failure. Certain supplements and medications can also affect liver function. If you have chronic hepatitis B or C, check with your doctor before taking any new medications.
What are your thoughts on this article? Share it in the comment section