What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a disease condition that occurs due to an inflammation of the liver. This inflammation could be due to a lot of reasons such as infection or damage by ingestion of harmful substances. Sometimes, hepatitis is not serious and occurs without causing any serious long-term problems. But at other times, it could result in serious problems in the acute stage, scarring of the liver and liver failure in the long-term and sometimes, unfortunately, liver cancer. It is responsible for about one million deaths around the world every year and affects almost 320 million people globally.
What Are The Major Causes of Hepatitis?
Hepatitis has many causes and these include infections by viruses, which are the most common causes. Other causes include infections by parasites and bacteria, excess alcohol intake, some medications, toxins and autoimmune diseases amongst others.
There are five main viruses that are responsible for viral hepatitis and they include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D Virus and Hepatitis E.
How Is It Transmitted?
The major viral causes of hepatitis are transmitted through different means.
- Hepatitis B and C: Major route of transmission is via sex. It is also transmitted by sharing of sharp objects and also from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth.
- Hepatitis A and E: Mainly transmitted either by eating contaminated food (raw or undercooked meat) or drinking contaminated water.
- Hepatitis D: Mainly affects those who have Hepatitis B and is spread through sexual contact or blood.
What Are The Symptoms Seen?
Symptoms of hepatitis vary depending on if it is short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) and they include:
- General body weakness and pains
- Tummy aches
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Reduced appetite
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- Leg swelling
- Blood in stool or vomit
How Is It Treated?
Treatment of Hepatitis is largely dependent on the cause. Sometimes hepatitis does not need any treatment and it goes away by itself. At other times, it needs to be treated with drugs prescribed by a Doctor.
Prevention is key in the management of this condition. There are vaccines for the viral causes of Hepatitis except Hepatitis C. Alcoholic hepatitis can be prevented by limiting the amount of alcohol consumed (less than 2 drinks per day) and avoiding binge drinking. Also practicing safe sex and not sharing sharp objects with others are important ways of reducing the transmission of viral hepatitis.
Article By: Dr. Aziegbe Isibor