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What You Need to Know About Hepatitis

By Madhusudhan Tammisetti

What You Need to Know About Hepatitis

The liver is a multitasking powerhouse. It filters blood. It detoxifies harmful substances. It stores nutrients, produces bile, and supports digestion, metabolism, and overall body functions. Any attack on the liver is serious.

So it’s no surprise that hepatitis is dangerous. It affects the liver by causing inflammation, which may damage this vital internal organ. Because the risks are so great, it is important to understand the causes, types, and treatment options available for an infected person with hepatitis.

Some of the best things you can do to protect yourself, family, and friends is take preventive steps, but that requires knowing a bit about hepatitis.

What Is Hepatitis?

The inflammation of the liver tissue is referred to as hepatitis. There are various factors that can cause this unhealthy condition. You can get hepatitis if exposed to toxins, if getting viral infections, or having an autoimmune response. Some hepatitis patients may not show any symptoms, though others may develop yellow skin discoloration, abdominal pain, tiredness, and poor appetite. If an infected person with hepatitis recovers within six months, it is considered acute. If it takes more than six months, it is considered a chronic condition.

Hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver and result in other chronic liver diseases. The liver plays a crucial role in detoxifying harmful substances, filtering blood, and producing necessary proteins. Inflammation of the liver compromises its proper functioning.

What Are the Different Types of Hepatitis?

The different types of hepatitis viruses include A, B, C, D, and E.

Hepatitis A is a food-born illness and primarily spreads through unwashed food or contaminated water. It is mild and resolves within six months. It spreads easily in children and causes less damage to the liver.

Hepatitis B can be acquired through contact with contaminated blood, an infected mother to the baby, or having unprotected sexual activity. It may lead to chronic liver disease, and it increases the chance of getting liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is spread when a person comes into contact with contaminated blood. This happens when people use shared needles or injected drugs. It used to be spread through blood transfusions before screening procedures were introduced into the medical field. If left untreated, the hepatitis C virus can become chronic and cause severe damage to the liver.

People infected with hepatitis B can get hepatitis D. It spreads when exposed to bodily fluids or contaminated blood.

One can get hepatitis E if they are exposed to contaminated food or water in a poorly sanitized environment. It may get resolved within six months and typically doesn’t lead to chronic liver conditions.

Autoimmune hepatitis is another condition. It occurs when the immune system fights against liver cells.

How Do You Get Hepatitis?

You may get infected with hepatitis in many ways. Ingesting contaminated food or water, engaging in unprotected physical relationships with an infected person, or coming into contact with infected blood or bodily fluids are all ways to get this virus.

Blood transfusion used to be a frequent source of infection. With the implementation of many stringent screening and testing processes, viral transmission has significantly decreased.

Sharing needles or using the same equipment for drug injection raises the risk of viral transmission, especially for hepatitis B and C.

Multiple sexual partners or unprotected sexual activity are two more risk factors for the hepatitis virus. Babies may get infected if born to an infected mother, but also at-risk are healthcare workers in settings in which they are exposed to infected blood or bodily fluids.

Are There Risk Factors or Populations Susceptible to Hepatitis?

There are certain risk factors and populations that are more susceptible than others to hepatitis. If you haven't received vaccines for the virus, you are more susceptible to getting infected. Vaccines can help protect you from getting infected with hepatitis A and B, but not C.

Traveling to areas where the virus is prevalent, especially regions with poor sanitation and hygiene practices, can increase your risk of exposure.

People who work in the healthcare industry, such as doctors, nurses, or laboratory technicians, are at a higher risk of coming into contact with hepatitis viruses.

Similarly, individuals who work in occupations where they may come into contact with infected blood or body fluids, such as first responders or tattoo artists, are also at increased risk.

Sharing items such as razors, toothbrushes, or needles can increase the risk of transmission because viruses can survive on surfaces, though not indefinitely.

People with weakened immune systems or those undergoing certain medical care have an increased susceptibility to this virus.

What if Hepatitis Is Left Untreated?

You can suffer from serious health conditions if you don’t get timely treatment for hepatitis. The liver may get severely damaged and lead to improper functioning of this internal organ. Poor liver function may cause cirrhosis, which occurs when the liver is scarred.

Neglecting hepatitis may increase the risk of developing liver cancer. In some cases, hepatitis can damage the liver quickly, which can be fatal. The chances of this virus being transmitted to other people increase if it is left untreated. By not getting timely treatment, you increase the damage to your liver but also increase the risk to other parts of the body, such as the kidneys.

Obviously, it’s important to see a doctor and get treatment if you think you have hepatitis. Doctors can prescribe medicine or suggest changes to your lifestyle. In very serious cases, you might even need a new liver through a transplant surgery.

Treatment and the Importance of Testing and Early Intervention

If you believe you may have come into contact with an infected person, or if you show any symptoms, you should get tested for hepatitis. Consult a physician if you show symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain, or jaundice. Early detection can help treat hepatitis in its early stages and reduce the chances of long-term liver damage.

If you have the virus, it is important to follow a prescribed treatment plan. If hepatitis is acute, it may be resolved within six months. Chronic hepatitis will take longer. For acute hepatitis, taking proper rest, good nutrition, and hydration can help in the recovery process. Liver transplants may be necessary for people with chronic hepatitis who have extensively damaged the liver.

Antiviral drugs may help patients with the hepatitis C virus. The medications suppress viral spreading and reduce liver inflammation.

Hepatitis Is Nothing to Fool Around With

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver caused by any number of factors, including contaminated food or water, viral infections, exposure to infected blood or toxins, or transmission from mother to baby during childbirth. Understanding the different types of hepatitis, their modes of transmission, and treatment options may help a patient recover from the virus -- or better yet, not get it.

You can minimize the risks of hepatitis by taking preventive measures and seeking early medical intervention. It’s worth the effort to avoid the risk.

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