Hepatitis: All you should know about the silent killer disease

Hepatitis- a silent killer disease

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people worldwide are estimated to have undiagnosed Viral Hepatitis. Hepatitis is inflammation of the Liver, which is typically triggered by a virus. There are many types of Viral Hepatitis, and in a lot of cases, people are unaware of the symptoms. NAFLD i.e., nonalcoholic fatty hepatitis is also a major cause of serious liver disease which is a silent epidemic. The liver is one of the most important organs in the body, as it digests food and filters out toxins, detection and subsequent treatment is essential. Let us understand the various types of Viral Hepatitis, how you get it, and its symptoms.

HEPATITIS A: Hepatitis A is the only form of Hepatitis that cannot develop into a chronic disease. It typically spreads through food or water contaminated with the virus.

Prevention: Vaccination is available for Hepatitis A

Symptoms: People usually experience symptoms which include, fever, exhaustion, sickness, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and Jaundice

Treatment: Hepatitis A only lasts a few weeks, so there is no medical treatment — but it is advisable to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy fresh foods

HEPATITIS B: Hepatitis B clears up within a few months for 95% of adults. However, children who are infected before 5 yrs of age are more susceptible to develop chronic Hepatitis B, because their immune system cannot fight off the virus. This virus is usually spread through bodily fluids like blood, contracted by having unprotected sex (in adults) or sharing needles. In babies, it may be transmitted from their mothers

Prevention: Vaccination is available and is administered to newborns mandatorily. Also, vaccination of family members after testing prevents spread

Symptoms: In few cases, patients with Hepatitis B show no symptoms, but others with severe, or short-term Hepatitis, may experience fever, dark urine, fatigue, joint pain, Jaundice and loss of appetite. Chronic Hepatitis B patients may not experience symptoms for decades until they begin to have Liver complications. After which, they may suffer from Jaundice, or abdominal distension and swelling of feet

Treatment: People with chronic Hepatitis B would require antiviral medications to reduce the chances of further Liver damage.

HEPATITIS C: Hepatitis C is spread through blood, and most people who contract the virus will have a chronic infection.

Prevention: There is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C, but it can be prevented by using a condom while having sex, ensuring that your tattoo artist or piercer uses sterile needles etc.

Symptoms: Usually, people won’t indicate any signs of the disease. Those with severe Hepatitis may have joint pain, lose their appetite or feel exhausted. Chronic Hepatitis C patients usually don’t experience symptoms until the disease progresses, usually decades after first coming in contact with the infection. They may then indicate signs of Liver damage, including Jaundice and dark urine.

Treatment: Antiviral medicines can treat both severe and chronic forms of the infection.

HEPATITIS D: People can only contract Hepatitis D if they’ve already been septic with Hepatitis B. This happens if a person comes in contact with Hepatitis D and B at the same time through bodily fluids. This virus can be acute or chronic like other Hepatitis virus.

Prevention: Get a Hepatitis B vaccine, which will prevent contracting Hepatitis D.

Symptoms: Most people with acute Hepatitis D will feel weary, nauseous, and have dark urine or stomach pain. Those who develop chronic Hepatitis D in all likelihood won’t show symptoms until liver damage occurs, causing them to lose weight drastically and develop Jaundice.

Treatment: Antiviral medicines are available to treat the virus

HEPATITIS E: Hepatitis E is common in developing countries, where it is spread through contaminated water & food with the virus. Usually, only people who have weakened immune systems due to HIV or Cancer contract chronic Hepatitis E.Pregnant women have a high risk of morbidity and mortality with high abortion rate.

Prevention: There is no medicine for Hepatitis E. The virus doesn’t spread to other people, but washing your hands after using the restroom and before touching food can reduce the risk of spreading Hepatitis E.

Symptoms: Most people will show no symptoms, but some will feel tired, nauseous, have dark urine and poor appetite.

Inputs by Dr. Rakesh Patel, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan