Worldwide, viral hepatitis affects millions of individuals, and about 90% of those affected are unaware of their condition. Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer and the second most frequent cause of cirrhosis (irreversible liver damage with scarring) in India. Every year on July 28, the globe observes World Hepatitis Day to promote awareness about using a unified theme to address viral hepatitis.
Several people have questions about this condition, which is why we are here to answer them all!
Hepatitis is the medical term for liver inflammation, which is most frequently brought on by viruses, excessive alcohol use, medications, autoimmunity, toxic chemicals, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. On a long-term basis, liver inflammation may result in significant liver conditions such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, and, in rare cases, liver cancer.
Hepatotropic (Liver-directed) viruses including hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis D, and hepatitis E can infect the liver and cause viral hepatitis (HEV). These infections can afflict people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations.
The hepatotropic viruses vary significantly in key aspects such as mechanisms of transmission, the severity of liver illness, geographic distribution, and methods of prevention. Hepatitis A and E infections can result in acute hepatitis, whereas Hepatitis B and C infections, if uncontrolled, can result in liver failure, chronic liver disorders such as cirrhosis, and liver cancer over months to years. The patient will be subjected to testing and treatment based on the kind of viral infection and the patient’s symptoms.
Hepatitis viruses can spread in several ways, including fecal-oral transmission (hepatitis A/E) and direct contact (hepatitis B/C) with infected blood or body fluids during delivery, blood transfusions, and injectable drug use, tattooing or acupuncture, and unprotected sexual activity.
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Patients with acute hepatitis frequently experience nausea, lack of appetite, upper right abdominal discomfort, and occasionally a yellowing of the eyes or skin. While patients with liver cirrhosis complain of swelling in the abdomen and legs, bruises, jaundice, disorientation, and blood vomiting, most people with chronic hepatitis have no symptoms.
Hepatitis A and E infections are usually managed with supportive care because they are self-limiting illnesses. The patient may need to be hospitalized if the symptoms are severe or persistent. Hepatitis A/E has no known cure. However, there is an effective vaccination to prevent the infection. Acute and chronic hepatitis can both be caused by hepatitis B infection. Similar to how not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs immediate treatment, most people with acute hepatitis B do not require it. Although there is no actual treatment for hepatitis B, antiviral medications (which decrease the virus’s reproduction) significantly lower the risk of consequences like cirrhosis and liver cancer. Liver damage can be avoided with early hepatitis C therapy. More than 95% of patients can now be cured due to the advancement and development of oral, directly acting, antiviral drugs in recent years.
The primary way to spread hepatitis A and E is by ingesting or drinking contaminated food. It is recommended to wash your hands carefully after using the bathroom and before using the kitchen to prevent catching these illnesses. Eat only freshly cooked food, and only drink boiled or bottled water in locations where the quality of water and sanitation is questionable. Get a hepatitis A vaccination to protect yourself from contracting this virus (but this does not guard against hepatitis E infection).
If one is exposed to the virus, an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin can prevent infection. There is also a vaccine for hepatitis B infection prevention that is quite effective. However, there is no hepatitis C vaccine.