What Are The Types Of Hepatitis And How They Are Treated?
There are certain medical conditions that have feared people on a global level since time immemorial. Hepatitis is one of those diseases which have now become an epidemic. And since it affects a very important organ of the body i.e. liver, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
- Hepatitis is a classification of inflammatory diseases affecting the liver
- Jaundice, fever, fatigue, dark urine and pale stool are some of the signs of hepatitis
- Treatment depends on the type of hepatitis while some form of hepatitis can also be prevented through vaccination
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a class of inflammatory diseases affecting the liver. It is characterized by the destruction of a number of liver cells, leading to decrease in functionality of the liver. The inflammation can lead to scarring and invite other severe problems such as cancer.
Viral infection is the most common cause while there are other factors such as certain medication, drugs, alcohol intake, etc. that are responsible for getting hepatitis.
There are several types of hepatitis including both acute and chronic which are will briefly mention below:
Types of Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis can be classified into five types A, B, C, D and E. Each type of hepatitis is caused due to a different virus.
1. Hepatitis A
It is an acute or short-term type of infection caused by Hepatitis A Virus (HAV). It is mainly contracted by consuming contaminated food or water with HAV infected feces. The average incubation period of Hepatitis A is 14-48 days while the recovery can take approximately 2 months.
As it’s a short-term illness, mostly bed rest is advised. A vaccine is also available for children aged 12-18 months while older can take a vaccine shot in combination with hepatitis B vaccine.
2. Hepatitis B
It is usually transmitted through HBV infected fluid such as blood, vaginal secretion, semen, and saliva. It can also spread via sharing of razors, having sex with an infected person and breastfeeding. The incubation period of this virus is 45-160 days.
This virus cannot be cleared with medicines but can be prevented from replicating and damaging the liver. Chronic hepatitis B is mostly treated with anti-viral medications.
The treatment also requires regular medical monitoring. Vaccines for newborns are highly recommended which should be completed within first 6 months of the baby birth.
3. Hepatitis C
As the name denotes, it is caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is mostly spread through injected bodily fluids such as drugs and can also be transmitted via sexual contact or mother to child during pregnancy. The incubation period of this condition can be anywhere in between 14 to 150 days.
While 20-40 percent of infected individuals are able to clear the virus without symptoms or treatment, rest of the lot may lead to the chronic stage.
People with chronic hepatitis C are usually given anti-viral medication. Individuals who develop cirrhosis (scarring and liver failure) might need a transplant. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.
4. Hepatitis D
Caused by hepatitis D virus (HDV), this rare condition can only occur when a person is infected with HBV virus. It is also known as delta hepatitis and is transmitted via direct contact with the infected blood. Hepatitis D has the most fatality rates of all types.
Currently, there isn’t any anti-viral medication to successfully treat this condition. A drug named alpha interferon is being used but the effectiveness is seen in 20-30 percent of people. Vaccine for hepatitis B can be helpful in preventing hepatitis D as without hepatitis B virus, the hepatitis D virus (HDV) cannot multiply itself.
5. Hepatitis E
This condition is primarily a waterborne disease and spread through contaminated water in the areas with poor sanitation. This type of virus is most prevalent in India, Southeast Asia, North and Central Africa and Central America.
The incubation period of hepatitis E is between 14-60 days. In a person with weak or compromised immune system, the condition can progress to chronic level.
People diagnosed with hepatitis E are advised to take rest, consume plenty of liquids and get nutrient-rich food. Presently, there are no specific treatments and vaccines available as the disease resolves on its own.
It is a form of autoimmune disease in which body’s own immune system attacks the healthy liver cells. This is basically non-infectious hepatitis and thought to be genetic with some individuals predisposed to liver inflammation. This condition is most likely to appear in women, usually aged 15-40.
Corticosteroids such as prednisone are recommended for reducing swelling. Drugs such as Azothioprine (Imuran) with/without steroids are prescribed to suppress the immune system and restore liver functionality.
Common symptoms of Hepatitis
Symptoms of acute hepatitis include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (Jaundice)
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stool
- Dark Urine
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
|Know The Causes and Symptoms of Jaundice in Newborns and Adults|
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
- Hepatitis is usually diagnosed with liver function test using blood samples.
- Ultrasound imaging technique may also be used for a closer look at the organs and determine fluid in the abdomen, liver damage and abnormalities in the gallbladder.
- In severe cases, liver biopsy is conducted by taking a sample tissue from the liver. This procedure doesn’t even require a surgery.
Complications of Hepatitis
Liver is the main target of hepatitis that could subsequently affect other vital organs of the body. Complications include:
- Bleeding disorders
- Increased blood pressure in portal veins entering the liver (portal hypertension)
- Cancer of the liver (Hepatocellular carcinoma)
- Kidney damage (Glomerulonephritis)
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen (Ascites)
- Severe loss of liver function (Hepatic Encephalopathy)
Prevention methods of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A and E can be prevented by practicing good hygiene. These are:
- Avoiding local water or ice while traveling
- Avoiding raw fruits and vegetables
- Avoiding raw or undercooked shellfish
Hepatitis B, C, and D are usually transmitted through blood. Prevention tips include:
- Avoid sharing drug needles
- Avoid sharing razors
- Avoid sharing someone else’s toothbrush
- Avoid touching of spilled blood
- Practicing safe sex using condoms (hepatitis B and C)
- Viral hepatitis is the most common form of hepatitis in India
- About 40 million people in India are chronically affected by Hepatitis B (WHO)
- 6-8 million people are chronically affected by Hepatitis C (WHO)
- Hepatitis A is more common in children
- On a global scale, over 400 million people are affected by Hepatitis B and C
- Over 95 percent of Hepatitis C cases can be treated effectively (WHO)
Hepatitis is a serious condition and needs to be addressed swiftly. Don’t forget to take available vaccinations to remain on a safe side. Talk to your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms.
1. Cropley A, et al. (2017). The use of immunosuppression in autoimmune hepatitis: A current literature review. read more
2. Hepatitis: Did you know? (2017). read more
3. Hepatitis E FAQs for health professionals. (2015). read more