By Dr Vivekanandan Shanmugam,

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the Liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are also other possible causes of Hepatitis like Autoimmune Hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, toxins, alcohol and drugs.   

1.     Viral Hepatitis:

Viral hepatitis is the most common condition and many people are caught unaware until the symptoms show up. It causes inflammation of the liver tissue. While few may not have any symptoms, others develop yellow discolouration of the skin and whites of the eyes, poor appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

The condition may be acute or chronic on whether it lasts for less or more than six months. Acute hepatitis (less than six months) may resolve on its own while chronic (more than six months) may rarely lead to liver failure. Over the years it may lead to scarring of liver, failure or even cancer.

As the name indicates, it is casued by Virus. There are 5 types of Virus. The most common in India re Hepatitis A, B, C & E

Viral Hepatitis kills close to 4000 / day globally. This more than death cased due to HIV / TB / Malaria.

The World Health Organsiation ( WHO ) has declared that this is a public disaster and announced that by the year 2030 Hepatitis needs to be eliminated.

Symptoms:

Feeling tired.

Fever, aching of muscles, joints.

Upset stomach, vomiting

Dark coloured urine, light coloured stools

Jaundice

Lack of appetite

How to diagnose:

The only way is to get a blood test done. Talk to your doctor for required blood tests and treatment.

2.     Hepatitis A &E (HAV):

Hepatitis A & E infect around 1.4 million people around the world annually. It makes the patient very sick but usually goes away in few weeks. HAV is contagious in nature and it is spread from person-to-person through food and water contaminated by the virus.

Symptoms:

Youngsters usually don’t show any signs of virus.

In others it will mimic flu symptoms like tiredness, stomach discomfort, fever, tiredness, decreased appetite, diarrhoea more specifically dark colour urine and jaundice.

How to Avoid:

Get the Hepatitis A vaccine.

Boil or cook your food and water if you travel to those countries where HAV is rampant

Wash your hands thoroughly after using restroom or changing diapers.

Avoid unhygienic street food.

How to diagnose:

Get a blood test done and talk to your doctor for treatment.

3.     Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

Hepatitis B Virus infects around 1 lakh people in India every year. Over 4 crore population get diagnosed with chronic HBV which lasts for more than six months and many of them have to live with it for rest of their lives. It is spread from person-to-person through blood or bodily fluids.

One may be at risk if they came in contact with blood or bodily fluids in it, share items such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, ear piercing and tattoo equipment. Child born to mother with HBV is also at risk.

Patients on dialysis, pre-dialysis and end stage renal failure are also high at risk.

How to Avoid:

Avoid getting in touch with blood and bodily fluids

Don’t ever share needles or drugs, equipment to shoot drugs.

Practice safe sex.

Get a vaccine.

How to diagnose:

Get a blood test done and talk to your doctor for treatment.

4.     Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

Around 1 % population is infected with HCV and most patients are unaware of their condition. Most people do not show any symptoms until 10 to 40 years after infection. HCV is spread through blood and body fluids. It is treatable and get rid of the virus.

How to Avoid:

Do not share items that may have blood on them.

Do not share drugs, needles and other equipment to shoot drugs.

You may be at risk:

If you have received blood transfusion.

Shared items that may be blood on them like razors, ear piercing equipment, nail clippers (just once or even many years ago).

How to diagnose:

Get a blood test done and talk to your doctor for treatment.

Vaccines are a Blessing:

Don’t get into panic mode learning about Hepatitis. The modern medicine has invented vaccines that help in avoiding these deadly viruses.

Get Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines if you are a risk of getting the virus, to be safe from HAV or HBV, if you already have HCV or as a part of routine vaccines.

Please be aware that Jaundice is a symptom of Liver dysfunction that needs full evaluation by a doctor and native medicines do not cure Viral Hepatitis.

Dr Vivekanandan Shanmugham, MBBS, FRCS is a well-known liver transplant surgeon, committed to creating awareness about liver related diseases. He along with his father Dr Shanmugham has founded Chennai Liver Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works relentlessly towards providing the best medical care for the patients from poor economical background.