Hepatitis is a condition characterised by liver inflammation. The condition may result from excessive consumption of alcohol, drugs and some other medical condition, but most hepatitis cases result from a viral infection. Viral hepatitis is the most prevalent, and they include hepatitis A, B, and C.
Symptoms of hepatitis
In most cases, hepatitis does not present symptoms in the few weeks following infection, and this is the acute phase. For people who experience symptoms of hepatitis, A, B, mad C, it occurs as poor appetite, fever, belly pain, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), nausea, and fatigue. Chronic hepatitis C and B may not show any symptoms until the liver becomes damaged.
What is hepatitis A?
This type of hepatitis is very contagious and spreads through different means. The infection usually results in mild illness, and most persons who become infected never know they are sick. The virus clears off on its own in most cases, and it does not cause long-term damage to the liver.
How does hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A spreads through water or food. Food may become infected when someone with the virus touches it without washing their hands, especially after going to the bathroom. The contaminated hands transfer trace amount of infected stool into the food.
Eating raw fruits, vegetables, shellfish and under cooked meals may also lead to hepatitis A. Hepatitis A outbreak may also occur in daycare centres if the caregivers do not wash their hands properly after changing babies’ diapers.
Risk factor for hepatitis A
The common risk factor for contracting hepatitis A is living or travelling to a country with high rates of hepatitis A infection. While travelling, drinking tap water and eating uncooked food also increases your risk of contracting Hepatitis A. Children at daycare centres also have a high risk of contracting the virus.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B infections occur with mild symptoms in most adults. The symptoms may last for a short while before the virus clears off on its own. However, some people’s immune system is unable to fight off hepatitis B, which leads to long-term infections.
Most people who contract the virus at an infant age live with it all through their lives. Long-term hepatitis infection may cause severe problems like liver cancer, failure, or damage.
How does hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids or blood. Most times, people contract hepatitis B through unprotected sexual intercourse. You can also get hepatitis B by sharing razors, toothbrushes and needles with an infected person. Transmission of the virus also occurs from mother to child during childbirth.
You cannot contract hepatitis B by sharing food or hugging an infected person or coughing.
Hepatitis B risk factors
Anyone can contract hepatitis B, but those who use illegal drugs or have several sex partners are at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis B. Other high-risk factors of hepatitis B include living with anyone infected with hepatitis B, exposure to blood, and being a healthcare provider.
What is hepatitis C?
Some persons, 25% of infected people,fight off the virus, but others live with hepatitis C for long. Long-term hepatitis C leads to serious complications like liver cancer or failure, although treatments are available for hepatitis C.
How does hepatitis C spread?
You can get hepatitis C through contact with infected blood. Sharing sharp objects like needles with an infected person causes hepatitis C. Getting body piercings and tattoos with an infected needle exposes you to the virus.
An infected mother can infect her baby with the virus during childbirth. You can contract the virus through unprotected sex. Having HIV, multiple sex partners or engaging in unsafe sexual activities can increase your risk of contracting hepatitis C.
Risk factors of Hepatitis C
Getting injected with illegal drugs can predispose you to hepatitis C, and since the infection does not show symptoms for long, you could live with the virus without realising it.
Those who had blood transfusion before1992 may also be at a high risk of having the virus because hepatitis C screening was not done for blood donated before that year.
Diagnosis of hepatitis
Chronic hepatitis may affect a person for years without the person realising he/she is infected. Undiagnosed hepatitis will remain untreated, and this may lead to serious damage to the liver. A blood test can detect viral hepatitis.
Who should test for hepatitis?
Anyone with a high risk of getting hepatitis should get tested, particularly those who inject illegal drugs and people with several sex partners. People born between 1945 to 1965 also need to test for hepatitis C.
What to do after a positive hepatitis test
If you test positive to viral hepatitis, the first step should be to protect your loved ones. If you have hepatitis A, wash your hands regularly and if you have hepatitis B and C, do not share sharp objects like razors or nail clippers.
You can transmit hepatitis B and C through sex, so ensure you avoid having sex. Also, make sure people living with you get the hepatitis B vaccine then see a specialist for treatment.
Hepatitis A treatment
Hepatitis A usually clears off without medications, but if you experience nausea, try taking small meals instead of the regular three large meals. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of sports drink, water and juice. Avoid engaging in strenuous exercises until you get well.
Chronic hepatitis B treatment
Treating chronic hepatitis B involves the control of the virus to prevent liver damage. The treatment usually starts with monitoring the liver for signs of disease. Doctors prescribe antiviral medications, but it may not be suitable for everyone. Before you commence your antiviral medications, ensure you discuss its benefits and risk factors with the doctor.
Chronic hepatitis C treatment
Doctors prescribe pibrentasvir (Mavyret) and glecaprevir for treatment of hepatitis C. The treatment involves taking three doses of the medication daily for about eight weeks for all types of hepatitis infection in adults who do not have cirrhosis. The treatment time is longer for people at a different stage of the infection.
Different combinations of HCV medication are available,and your doctor will choose the right combination for you, which usually depends on the hepatitis infection, other medical problems and liver functionality.
Managing chronic hepatitis
Your doctor will require you to carry out regular blood tests to check the functionality of the liver, and you would also carry out CT scans and ultrasound to check for signs of liver damages. If the virus did not damage your liver, you might not require treatment, but you will need regular tests to check for changes. It is easier to treat hepatitis complications if detected early.
Chronic hepatitis may lead to some complications like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Both conditions are life-threatening and make it difficult for the liver to function properly. Liver cirrhosis is characterised by nausea, stomach pain, jaundice,confusion, loss of weight, and swelling of the legs and belly.
Detecting liver complications would need blood tests, biopsy, CT scans and ultrasounds. Early detection of the liver tumour increases higher chances of successful treatment, but the treatment of most liver cancers is difficult. In cases of badly damaged liver, a liver transplant may be the only treatment option.
Vaccines for hepatitis A and B
Vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B for children between 12 – 23 months, and for adults who want to travel to areas where the infection is prevalent. Those with chronic hepatitis C or B can also get the vaccine for hepatitis A. There is no hepatitis C vaccine, but the vaccine for hepatitis B is available for children at birth.
How to protect your liver
If you are diagnosed with chronic hepatitis, you can take some steps to keep your liver healthy, like avoiding alcohol. You should also ask your doctor before taking supplements or medications and attend all your appointments with the doctor.
You can get tested at STD Check London for hepatitis. Call us now to book an appointment for your STD testing.