Simply put, Hepatitis refers to the inflammation or swelling of the liver. It has many types, depending on the virus that infected you. Three of the most common types of Hepatitis are Hepatitis A, B and C. To understand this disease, you have to know its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Here we provide you a brief overview of Hepatitis.
Causes. Hepatitis can be caused by a number of factors, the first of which are viruses. The type of Hepatitis you have depends on the virus that infected your body, Examples of viruses that cause hepatitis are Herpes simplex, Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr, yellow fever virus, adenoviruses.
Aside from viruses, hepatitis can also be caused by heavy alcohol use, abuse of drugs and other substances that result in hepatoxicity, and autoimmune reaction by the body resulting in autoimmune disease. Similarly, you can get hepatitis as a complication of other diseases.
Symptoms. Hepatitis does not usually manifest itself in symptoms, which makes it almost impossible to detect early. In general, the symptoms of hepatitis are very similar to flu – colds and fever. Below is a list of symptoms associated with hepatitis.
- Abdominal and joint pain
- Clay-colored feces
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue, lethargy and malaise
- Dark urine
Diagnosis. Hepatitis can be diagnosed if the symptoms manifest. This will be confirmed through some blood samples, and in some cases, liver tissue tests. The blood sample will undergo a radioimmunoassay testing, which will allow the doctor to determine the cause of the disease and the degree of the inflammation. The liver sample, collected through biopsy, is required only for severe cases of chronic hepatitis or late stage acute viral hepatitis.
Treatment. Generally, hepatitis is curable, especially if detected early on. The treatment depends on what type of hepatitis you have. For example, for Hepatitis A, doctors advise patients to take bed rest, eat a healthy diet, and avoid alcoholic beverages. The doctor may also prescribe some drugs that are metabolized through the liver, including antivirals and interferon. In severe cases of hepatitis, the doctor will recommend hospitalization, intravenous feeding, and liver transplant.
Prevention. There are many ways to prevent infection by hepatitis. Here are some of them.
- Get vaccinated. Immunoglobulins protect the body from getting infected by viruses that cause hepatitis, especially hepatitis A and B.
- Avoid sharing personal items. This might get you infected with hepatitis through blood or saliva, including razors and toothbrushes.
- Do not share needles. This goes for drug users and for people who regularly donate blood or get transfused with blood.
- Practice safe sex and use condoms. This will protect both you and your partner from exposure to semen, vaginal fluids, and blood that might be infected by hepatitis virus.
- Others: Drink alcohol in moderation; eat healthy and avoid fatty foods; wash your hands before eating; and avoid eating food prepared in unsanitary areas.