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VIRAL HEPATITIS

Hepatitis refers to the inflammation in the liver which is usually caused due to viral infection, though there are other possible causes of hepatitis. Viruses that primarily attack the liver are the hepatitis viruses which include hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, and G. Hepatitis A, B and C are the most common types of viruses. Viral hepatitis has become a major health concern affecting many people. It is a matter of concern and therefore immediate medical attention should be given to the person suffering from this condition.

The liver is a vital organ and is the second largest part of the body which helps in processing the food. The liver converts food into nutrients and energy for the body. It filters the harmful substances from the body and also fights and eliminates the infection from the body. Viral infection may affect the liver and damage the organ. The treatment options for viral hepatitis may vary from person to person as it may depend on the cause of the infection.

TYPES OF VIRAL HEPATITIS

There are 5 types of viral hepatitis. They are:

Hepatitis A infection is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV) and this is commonly transmitted by the consumption of contaminated food and water. The food may be contaminated with the fecal matter by a person suffering from the infection.

Hepatitis B infection is caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV) and it is transmitted through wounds, or when a healthy person comes in contact with infectious body fluids such as semen, saliva and blood. Using unhygienic syringes, unprotected sex, sharing razors and needles may cause this type of infection.

Hepatitis C infection is caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) and it is transmitted through the direct contact through syringes used for injection and sexual contact. Hepatitis C virus is the most common blood-borne viral infections among all the other types of infections.

Hepatitis D infection is caused by hepatitis D virus (HDV) and this type of infection is also transmitted by wounds and sexual intercourse. It is a rare type of infection which occurs in combination with hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis E infection is caused by hepatitis E virus (HEV) and this type of infection is observed in places with poor sanitation. It is the most uncommon type of hepatitis infection.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The signs and symptoms of viral hepatitis are:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale stool
  • Dark urine
  • Skin and eyes appear yellow in color and show signs of jaundice

CAUSES

Alcohol and autoimmune diseases may cause non-viral hepatitis. Consumption of alcohol may damage the liver and causes the liver to swell. This is referred to as alcoholic hepatitis. Apart from these two causes various other viruses cause different types of viral hepatitis infection. Hepatitis A and E are mainly transmitted through contaminated food and drinks. Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through contaminated blood.

DIAGNOSIS

  • Medical examination is performed by the doctor to make a note of all the changes and the complaints of the patient. The doctor may also ask for the complete medical history of the patient.
  • Blood test is performed to determine the levels of white blood cells as an increase in the level of white blood cells may result in the development of an infection in the body. Any kind of abnormality in the blood may determine liver damage.
  • Biopsy may be done, i.e. a piece of tissue from the affected part of the liver is taken and examined under the microscope in the laboratory.
  • Imaging tests- Imaging tests include CT scan, MRI, PET scan and X-ray. The imaging tests are performed to get a clear picture of the inside of the liver.
  • Liver tests are performed to check the functioning of the liver. High level of enzymes may indicate the liver to be damaged.

TREATMENT

The treatment for viral hepatitis may depend on the cause of the infection.

  • Hepatitis A infection does not require any particular treatments. The doctor may change the diet of the patient and may recommend complete bed rest.
  • Hepatitis B may require anti-viral medications for treating the condition.
  • Hepatitis C may also require antiviral medications to treat both acute and chronic conditions.
  • Hepatitis D is treated with a medication called alpha interferon.
  • Hepatitis E has no particular treatment and people with this type of infection are advised to take adequate rest and drink plenty of water.
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