Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It’s commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when the body makes antibodies against the liver tissue.
The liver is located in the right upper area of the abdomen. It performs many critical functions that affect metabolism throughout the body, including:
● bile production, which is essential to digestion
● filtering of toxins from the body
● excretion of bilirubin (a product of broken-down red blood cells), cholesterol, hormones, and drugs
● breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
● activation of enzymes, which are specialized proteins essential to body functions
● storage of glycogen (a form of sugar), minerals, and vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
● synthesis of blood proteins, such as albumin
● synthesis of clotting factors
Hepatitis can be caused by:
• Immune cells in the body attacking the liver
• Infections from viruses (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C), bacteria, or parasites
• Liver damage from alcohol or poison
• Medicines, such as an overdose of acetaminophen
Liver disease can also be caused by inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis or hemochromatosis, a condition that involves having too much iron in your body.
Other causes include Wilson disease, a disorder in which the body retains too much copper.
Short-term (acute) hepatitis often has no noticeable symptoms, so you may not realize you have it.
If symptoms do develop, they can include:
● muscle and joint pain
● a high temperature
● feeling and being sick
● feeling unusually tired all the time
● a general sense of feeling unwell
● loss of appetite
● tummy pain
● dark urine
● pale, grey-colored poo
● itchy skin
● yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
Treatment for hepatitis depends on which type you have and whether it is acute or chronic. Acute viral hepatitis often goes away on its own. To feel better, you may just need to rest and get enough fluids. But in some cases, it may be more serious. You might even need treatment in a hospital.
There are different medicines to treat the different chronic types of hepatitis. Possible other treatments may include surgery and other medical procedures. People who have alcoholic hepatitis need to stop drinking. If your chronic hepatitis leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
Can hepatitis be prevented?
There are different ways to prevent or lower your risk for hepatitis, depending on the type of hepatitis. For example, not drinking too much alcohol can prevent alcoholic hepatitis. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B. Autoimmune hepatitis cannot be prevented.
The 5 Types of Viral Hepatitis and Treatment
Hepatitis is a common disease that inflames the liver, an important organ for metabolism and breaking down food in the digestive system. To date, there are at least five different known types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. While all cause liver disease, they vary in important ways.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the feces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV. Infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further HAV infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life-threatening. Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with this virus. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
Treatment of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A usually doesn’t require treatment because it’s a short-term illness. Bed rest may be recommended if symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort. If you experience vomiting or diarrhea, follow the doctor’s orders for hydration and nutrition.
The hepatitis A vaccine is available to prevent this infection. Most children begin vaccination between the ages of 12 and 18 months. It’s a series of two vaccines. Vaccination for hepatitis A is also available for adults and can be combined with the hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids. HBV can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or from family members to infants in early childhood. Transmission may also occur through transfusions of HBV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use. HBV also poses a risk to healthcare workers who sustain accidental needle stick injuries while caring for infected-HBV patients. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
Treatment of Hepatitis B
Acute hepatitis B doesn’t require specific treatment.
Chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B also requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring to determine if the virus is responding to treatment.
Hepatitis B can be prevented with vaccination. It is recommended to have all newborns be vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine. The series of three vaccines are typically completed over the first six months of childhood. The vaccine is also recommended for all healthcare and medical personnel.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly transmitted through exposure to infective blood. This may happen through transfusions of HCV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use. Sexual transmission is also possible but is much less common.
Treatment of Hepatitis C
Antiviral medications are used to treat both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C. People who develop chronic hepatitis C are typically treated with a combination of antiviral drug therapies. They may also need further testing to determine the best form of treatment.
People who develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver disease as a result of chronic hepatitis C may be candidates for a liver transplant.
Currently, there is no vaccination for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV. The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in more serious diseases and worse outcomes. Hepatitis B vaccines protect from HDV infection.
Treatment of Hepatitis D
No antiviral medications exist for the treatment of hepatitis D at this time. Hepatitis D can be prevented by getting the vaccination for hepatitis B, as infection with hepatitis B is necessary for hepatitis D to develop.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is mostly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water or food. HEV is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease in developed countries. Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available.
Treatment of Hepatitis E
Currently, no specific medical therapies are available to treat hepatitis E. Because the infection is often acute, it typically resolves on its own. People with this type of infection are often advised to get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, get enough nutrients, and avoid alcohol. However, pregnant women who develop this infection require close monitoring and care.