Viral hepatitis is the most common cause of jaundice in our community. The disease manifests with yellowish discoloration of the eye and sclera which is called jaundice.
Viral hepatitis is a viral disease caused by the following viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Of these viruses, hepatitis E infection is the most cause of jaundice in our community followed by hepatitis A. Hepatitis B & C usually occurs amongst the high risk individuals like nurses, doctors, paramedical staff, patient receiving multiple transfusions and the virus is transmitted through the parenteral route.
Before jaundice appears as a manifestation of viral hepatitis, these patients experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
Over the next four to six weeks, the jaundice increases and patient passes high coloured urine, white stools and may complain of itching. In uncomplicated situations, it takes upto 4-6 weeks for the jaundice to settle down, gradually, and the patient starts passing normal colour urine and stools. It is important for any patient who develops jaundice to contact a physician immediately, who would confirm the cause of jaundice by getting the Liver Function Tests done and profile of the tests confirm the diagnosis of viral hepatitis. Also, there are many other causes of jaundice which needs different approaches for medical management. After the confirmation of the diagnosis of viral hepatitis, some serological tests to confirm whether the hepatitis was caused by hepatitis A,E,B or C.
If the jaundice is caused by hepatitis A or E, patient recovers completely in course of time. But if the jaundice is caused by hepatitis B or C, it may take longer time for recovery or it may progress to chronic liver disease. Once the diagnosis of viral hepatitis is confirmed as a cause of jaundice, the patients needs to be under the supervision of physician, till complete recovery take place. The patient need not be admitted in the hospital and can be managed at home unless the patient is totally anorectic and has protracted vomiting. There is no specific medication for viral hepatitis unless the course gets complicated. It is a self limiting illness. The patient may take normal diet with adequate fluid intake. Fat needs to be reduced only if there is presenting nausea or any disliking for fats.The jaundice episode of viral hepatitis usually resolves over 4-6 weeks. If the jaundice is prolonged beyond 6 weeks patient needs hospitalization.
Viral hepatitis usually occurs due to contamination of food and drinking water by hepatitis A and E. Therefore prevention of viral hepatitis can be done by improving public health measures for sanitation and providing safe drinking water. During an epidemic of jaundice, everyone should drink boiled water. For the prevention of hepatitis B and C infection, We must ensure to provide safe blood , always use sterile needles and syringes for administering medication and also immunize the high risk population against hepatitis B infection by administering hepatitis B vaccine.