Hepatitis is a medical condition characterized by the inflammation of the liver. The liver is the largest internal organ and is responsible for over 500 vital functions. It is the main site where all the important proteins are made and it also helps with the production of bile, which helps in the digestion of fats. Besides these, the liver also processes all the nutrients the body requires.
Hepatitis can impair the liver partially or even completely depending on the severity of the conditions. While its milder forms are reversible, more critical forms might turn into a lifelong disease with life-threatening repercussions.
Types, Causes and Symptoms of Hepatitis
Hepatitis can be broadly classified into two main categories depending on its causes:
This is the most common form of hepatitis where the virus infects the liver cells and causes damage. There are three viral forms:
- Hepatitis A: Caused by the hepatitis A virus, this infection spreads through contaminated water or from close contact with an infected person.
- Hepatitis B: Caused by the hepatitis B virus, this infection may be transmitted through blood, semen and vaginal secretions.
- Hepatitis C: Caused by the hepatitis C Virus, this virus can be contracted by contact with infected human blood.
- Autoimmune Hepatitis: This condition results when the body’s immune system attacks the liver.
- Alcoholic Hepatitis: This is a common condition in heavy drinkers and occurs because the body breaks down alcohol into chemicals that can be toxic to the liver.
- Toxic or Drug-Induced Hepatitis: The liver plays an important role in metabolizing drugs in the body and certain chemical residues from drugs, plants and industrial toxins could damage the liver.
Depending on the degree of severity, medical practitioners further classify hepatitis into:
This type of hepatitis can develop suddenly or gradually and seldom lasts beyond two months. In rare cases, it may last up to six months but causes minimal liver damage.
If acute hepatitis does not clear after six months, it is categorized as a chronic condition that can cause extensive liver damage and cell injury. It is progressive in nature, but the progression is considerably slow.
The risk factors for contracting hepatitis include:
- Living with someone who is infected
- Spreading from mother to child during delivery
- Having unprotected sex with multiple partners/persons infected with Hep C
- Having an HIV infection
- Sharing needles for drug use
Though in some cases the symptoms can appear immediately, it typically does not appear until a few weeks after being infected.
The following symptoms manifest in most or all forms of hepatitis:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin
- Excessive fatigue
- Muscle or joint pain
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hepatitis
The diagnosis of hepatitis is carried out on the basis of physical examinations and blood work, including tests like:
- Blood tests to identify the specific virus
- Tests to measure the concentration of bilirubin, liver enzymes, serum albumin, etc.
- Liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the damage
There are no specific treatment strategies for hepatitis A as it clears up on its own; the only treatment usually provided is to deal with the symptoms. An acute hepatitis B infection tends to fade away on its own too, while a chronic condition may need medications. Hepatitis C is treated with antiviral medications.
Apart from these, immunosuppressants and vaccinations may be useful for certain types. When no strategy works, a liver transplant might be recommended.
Alternative therapies may include:
- Ayurvedic herbs like bhringaraj, haritaki, pippali and turmeric and simple lifestyle modifications to help improve the liver’s functioning
- Milk thistle and silymarin may be useful for fighting Hepatitis C
- Some yoga postures like vajrasana, halasana and shalabhasana might help the immune system and liver
- Homeopathic remedies like lycopodium, belladonna and mercurius
- Lifestyle changes to include exercise and a healthy diet might be beneficial
Though severe cases of hepatitis can pose an increased risk for jaundice, liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer, depending on the severity of the condition, medications and lifestyle modifications may help you manage the symptoms and even recover completely.
The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.
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