What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is defined as the inflammation of the liver. It can either be self-limiting or may also make its way to other conditions such as fibrosis, cirrhosis or even liver cancer. The most common causes of hepatitis include:
- Viral infection
- Excessive consumption of toxic substances such as alcohol or certain other drugs.
- Autoimmune diseases
How does Hepatitis affect liver function?
The function of the liver is to do detoxification of blood, storage of vitamins and production of certain hormones. Hepatitis can cause disruption of these functions which can lead to severe health issues in the body. For example, Hepatitis C triggers an immune response, which causes inflammation in the liver. The inflammatory response of the liver starts causing further damage to the liver.
Type of Hepatitis
There are 5 types of hepatitis - Type A, B, C, D, and E.
Hepatitis B and C are the most common causes of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The most common source of this virus is the excreta of infected patients, which can be transmitted through contaminated water or food. Certain infections are mild and patients can be treated and recovered well. On the other hand, there are certain cases which can even be life-threatening. The most common areas that are affected by Hepatitis are those with poor sanitation.
Vaccines are available for hepatitis A, known as Havrix and Vaqta.
This infection is transmitted through infection in the blood, semen, and other body fluids. It can either be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or through the blood transfusions by infected needles and other contaminated blood products. People who are prone to have Hepatitis B are most commonly the healthcare workers who tend to have needle stick injury while taking care of an infective HBV patient.
Vaccines for Hepatitis B are present such as Engerix-B and Recombivax HB.
This is also commonly transmitted through infected blood with the help of HCV contaminated blood and blood products. Another common source is sexual intercourse. There is no vaccine available for HCV.
Hepatitis D only occurs in patients who are suffering from Hepatitis B. This becomes a severe infection which can have several worse outcomes. The vaccines used to prevent Hepatitis B can also be used to prevent Hepatitis D infection.
The most common mode of transmission for Hepatitis E is contaminated food and water. This is the most common cause of worldwide deaths in both developing and developed countries. Vaccination has been invented but not available across the globe.
Signs and symptoms
The initial phase of hepatitis is known as the acute phase. The symptoms may include :
Loss of appetite
Muscle or joint aches
Slight abdominal pain
The condition can be treated when the patient is at the acute phase. In some cases, the condition can also progress to acute liver failure or even death. As the disease progresses, it can lead to chronic hepatitis, progressive liver failure, confusion, blood in the stool or vomit, jaundice, swelling in lower extremities, etc
How is it diagnosed?
After taking a detailed medical history about all the signs and symptoms, any past medical history or family history, a clinical examination is conducted.
This is followed by a series of diagnostic tests which include:
Blood tests - These tests are used to check whether the body is producing antibodies or not. Also, these tests are used to analyze the liver function by detecting the levels of liver proteins and enzymes.
Nucleic acid tests - Tests such as HBV DNA and HCV RNA are done to confirm the speed at which the virus is reproducing in the liver.
Liver biopsy - This is done to measure the extent of liver damage and cancer risk.
Paracentesis - The surgeon extracts the abdominal is removed and tested to identify the cause of fluid accumulation.
Elastography - This is used to measure the amount of stiffness in the liver by using sound waves.
Surrogate markers - This is specifically used to access cirrhosis and fibrosis.
Early detection and treatment are important for complete recovery. Several hospitals have some of the top hepatologists in India, who are highly experienced and skilled in treating such conditions by providing accurate treatment. These conditions can also be prevented by maintaining good hygiene, eating clean food and also by using sterilization methods while getting the blood work done.