Introduction to Hepatitis
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. It is usually caused by a viral infection from the hepatitis virus but may occur due to several other causes, such as toxic intake (drugs, alcohol, medications) or autoimmune diseases.
World Hepatitis Day is celebrated every year on the 28th of July to create awareness about the symptoms and treatment of the liver disease and take a step towards reducing the number of lives lost to it.
TYPES OF HEPATITIS
There are mainly 5 types of Hepatitis, namely, Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The most common types of Hepatitis prevalent in India are Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
a. HEPATITIS A: This disease is caused by Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) which is present in feces of an infected person, and thus, is transmitted through feces-contaminated food or water. Locations with poor sanitation and hygienic conditions have more number of Hepatitis A cases and although one can expect full recovery from HAV infection, sometimes it can also be life-threatening. Around 12.6% of India’s population was detected with HAV in 2019.
b. HEPATITIS B: Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and is transmitted through infectious body fluids, such as semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. It can also be transmitted from a mother to her newborn infant during childbirth. Thus, accidental needle stick injuries, unprotected sexual contact, etc. result in the transmission of HBV. The average estimated carrier of HBV in India is 4%, which implies a total pool of 36 million carriers.
c. HEPATITIS C: The Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is usually transmitted through infected blood and drug use via contaminated injections used during medications or blood transfusion. As of present, there are no vaccines for HCV. The prevalence of HCV in India is approximately between 0.5%–1.5%.
d. HEPATITIS D: This is a rare form of Hepatitis that occurs only in those infected with HBV and cannot transmit to people without Hepatitis B. As such, the vaccine for HBV can provide protection against HDV.
e. Hepatitis E: It is mostly transmitted through contaminated water. It is now an increasing cause of concern in most developed countries. 25% of the population in India has been subjected to HEV in the past few years.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis
Although every type of Hepatitis displays symptoms that differ from the rest, there are a few common symptoms shown by all the five types.
- Constant Fatigue
- Fever or the Flu
- Dark Urine
- Pale Stool
- Abdominal Pain
- Sudden Loss of Weight
a. Ultrasound Imaging: Abdominal Ultrasound is usually the primary step to determine liver damage or enlargement through organ imaging.
b. Blood Test: A blood test is performed to check for viruses, and also for the presence of antibodies.
c. Liver Functions Tests: Liver function tests are performed that use blood samples to determine how efficiently the liver is working. Abnormal results are an indication of Hepatitis. High levels of liver enzymes may indicate a liver to be stressed, damaged, or dysfunctional.
d. Liver Biopsy: This is carried out to confirm the amount of damage done to the liver due to infection or inflammation. It can also be done to test sample areas of the liver that appear to be abnormal.
Treatment for Hepatitis
The treatment for Hepatitis is unique for every type. Also, whether the Hepatitis is acute or chronic also plays an important role in the treatment imparted.
Hepatitis A: It is a short term illness that seldom shows symptoms and requires minimal treatment from which one can recover very soon. In extreme cases, it may lead to vomiting and diarrhea for which a doctor’s consultation is recommended. A series of vaccines are available for HAV and can be administered to children between 12 to 18 months of age.
Hepatitis B: Although acute Hepatitis B requires no specific treatment. Chronic Hepatitis B needs antiviral medications or vaccination. HBV vaccine is recommended by the CDC for all newborns.
Hepatitis C: Currently, Hepatitis C has no vaccine. Combinations of antiviral medications are used to treat both acute and chronic Hepatitis C. Sometimes, Hepatitis C infected people develop cirrhosis of the liver, or scarring of the liver, which may subject them to a liver transplant.
Hepatitis D: Since Hepatitis D occurs only in people with Hepatitis B, hence the vaccine used for HBV can also be used for HDV.
Hepatitis E: There is no treatment for Hepatitis E to date. Physicians and healthcare providers recommend Hepatitis E patients to take enough rest, get adequate nutrition and drink fluids, and avoid alcoholic beverages.
An approximation of 325 Million people is suffering from Hepatitis, while 290 million are unaware of it. Without timely diagnosis and adequate treatment, millions are suffering and lives are lost. This World Hepatitis Day, let us create global awareness about the condition and ‘Find the Missing Millions’.