What is Hepatitis?
Any inflammation of the Liver is known as Hepatitis.
Hepatitis may be acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis is temporary and usually resolves on its own, or rarely results in Acute Liver Failure. On the other hand, Chronic Hepatitis is occurs due to illness for a long duration (usually more than 6 months) and leads to Cirrhosis (or Liver Failure). Many patients are diagnosed for the first time when they already have features of Chronic Liver Disease or Cirrhosis.
What are the causes of Hepatitis?
The common causes of Hepatitis include alcohol, Fatty Liver, Diabetes and Hepatitis viruses like Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Other causes include drugs, autoimmune diseases, etc.
Hepatitis A & E are caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water and is a common cause of Acute Hepatitis. Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted by contaminated blood or blood products, sharing infected needles or razors and even unsafe sex, usually leading to Chronic Hepatitis. However, Hepatitis B can also be transmitted from infected mother to child.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?
Hepatitis has a varied presentation. It ranges from complete asymptomatic presentation to non-specific symptoms like weakness, nausea, vomiting, bloating, loss of appetite, body ache & jaundice. However, if worsened, it can also cause bleeding. Another symptom is the presence of fluid in the abdomen (Ascites) and/or loss of sensorium.
How can one prevent Hepatitis?
There are a few simple ways to prevent Hepatitis:
- Patients should refrain from regular alcohol intake
- Patients should perform physical activities for at least 45 minutes every day
- Avoid weight gain. For a rough estimate, subtract 100 from your height (in cms), that would be your ideal body weight. Try to reduce is above this and keep it below the level.
- For Hepatitis B, there are vaccines available and everyone should get vaccinated irrespective of age or gender.
- For Hepatitis B & C, one should opt safe sexual practices, avoid sharing razors and toothbrushes, use safe needles for tattooing and avoid IV drug abuse.
How to manage Hepatitis?
For the diagnosis of Hepatitis, apart from clinical history & examination, there are a battery of blood tests which help in evaluating the cause. This is also supported by ultrasound of the abdomen.
The treatment for Hepatitis depends on the cause. Acute Hepatitis is usually self-limited & improves even without any specific treatment. No dietary restriction is required. The patient can take haldi (turmeric) and normal food. Alcohol use should be completely stopped. In case of Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis, regular exercises, weight control and certain medication help improve the condition. For Hepatitis B and C, there are specific medicines available. Similarly, there is specific treatment for autoimmune related Hepatitis. In case, patient has any symptom or signs discussed earlier, he/she should immediately contact a Gastroenterologist or a Liver specialist, and should not self-medicate or ascribe to traditional medication, no matter what the state. This way, one may prevent progression of the disease to Chronic Hepatitis and Liver Failure.
The writer, Dr. Lovkesh Anand, is a Consultant Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram.