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Are you Hepatitis Free?

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Hepatitis

Are you Hepatitis Free?

Dr Kunal Das (Gastro)
Medical & Surgical Gastroenterology
Medical & Surgical Gastroenterology
Senior Consultant

Hepatitis is also known as silent epidemic because people might be infected for more than 30 years yet they are not aware about it.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver. According to Dr. Kunal Das, "The liver viruses are the most common causes of the hepatitis. These liver viruses are named after the alphabets namely, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E". 

Know more on Different types of Hepatitis

HEPATITIS A

It is short term liver inflammation for less than 6 months. The most common symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and
  • General malaise for atleast 5-7days followed by yellowish discoloration of eyes, urine and skin. 

The tests that your doctor will recommend you are liver function tests, IgM anti-HAV antibody test. Usually the prodromal symptoms are self limiting for 10-15 days, which improves the LFT within 6 weeks to 6 months.

Symptomatic therapy is usually recommended in most cases. Hepatitis A can be prevented by:Practicing general hygienic conditions like washing hands before and eating after defecation; Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before eating; and Getting vaccinated at proper intervals. In developing countries where there is poor sanitary condition, it has been observed that most children are infected with hepatitis virus before the age of 10 years.  

HEPATITIS B

It can cause both short term and long term inflammation of liver. The disease is transmitted by infected blood and blood products, infected needles, syringes and surgical instruments and also unsafe sexual practices. The blood tests recommended by doctor are HBsAG, Anti-HBc antibody and HBV-DNA. Acute infection of Hepatitis B can be resolved in 95% of cases, while long term disease can be cured in only 5% patients. Moreover, the long term infection in patients causes chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, hepatic coma and liver cancer. Different treatment modalities include oral anti-viral agents like lamivudine as well as injections that may be prescribed daily or weekly. WHO mandates that all individuals should get vaccinated against Hepatitis B irrespective of age and sex. An estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen positive for at least 6 months). 

HEPATITIS C

Globally, around 130-150 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C infection. It is a serious liver disease that is most commonly seen in drug abusers as they share needles and use unsafe sexual practices. Good news is that this disease is curable in 95-99% of cases by using oral pills for atleast 3-6months. Several blood tests like Anti-HCV antibodies and HCV-RNA by RT-PCR method are recommended. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available and it can be prevented by using safe needles and syringes in hospitals. The disease can cause long term liver damage leading to decompensate liver diseases like ascites, liver coma, hepato-renal syndrome, liver cancer. An end stage liver disease or cirrhosis has a poor prognosis and only be cured by liver transplantation

HEPATITIS D

It is a parasitic liver virus that can occur in association with hepatitis B. The virus is responsible for causing severe liver diseases and increases the occurrence of liver cancer among patients of hepatitis B. There is no specific vaccine or treatment against hepatitis D. 

HEPATITIS E

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis E and most cases resolve within 6 months. Primarily it a food and water borne virus like hepatitis A that gets transmitted by contaminated food and water. It is one of the most common liver viruses and responsible for causing acute or short term liver disease. Hepatitis E has a special preference for pregnant women as it causes severe form of acute hepatitis also known as acute liver failure (ALF) or fulminant hepatitis. It is a dangerous condition and can cause death in more than 60% of ALF patients. The only way to save these patients is by doing liver transplantation. Presently, there is no vaccine available and the only way it can be prevented by is following safe hygienic practices.