Viral hepatitis: Types, symptoms, treatment, and prevention


Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver cells, resulting in damage to the liver. With an estimated 240 million people infected with different forms of hepatitis in the world, Viral Hepatitis is gradually growing into a disease of disastrous proportions.


Types of Viral Hepatitis

Viral infections occurring in the liver are classified into five types, which include Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Different viruses are responsible for each type of hepatitis.


Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A occurs due to an infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Hepatitis A is always an acute, short term disease and is most commonly transmitted by the consumption of food or water that is contaminated by the feces of a person who is infected with Hepatitis A.


Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection that is likely to be ongoing and chronic and is usually transmitted through contact with body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions etc. containing the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Having sex with an infected individual, sharing razors and injections with a person infected with the Hepatitis B infection are also causes of contracting the infection.


Hepatitis C

Caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), the Hepatitis C infection is also a chronic and long lasting infection and is generally transmitted through direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person, or through sexual contact and/or sharing injections with the infected individual.


Hepatitis D

Caused by the Hepatitis D virus, Hepatitis D is also known as Delta Hepatitis. It is a serious liver disease and is not commonly diagnosed. It occurs only in conjunction with the Hepatitis B infection and is contracted through direct contact with infected blood.


Hepatitis E

A waterborne disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus, cases of Hepatitis E infections are mainly observed in areas with poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation, usually caused by the ingestion of fecal matter through drinking contaminated water.



Symptoms of Viral Hepatitis

Signs of acute Hepatitis, i.e. Hepatitis A appear quickly and can be noticed easily. These include:


• Flu-like symptoms

• Pale stool

• Fatigue

• Loss of appetite

• Unexplained weight loss

• Yellow skin and eyes


Chronic hepatitis like Hepatitis B and C grow slowly and any signs or symptoms may not show until the liver is damaged.


Diagnosis of Viral Hepatitis
During physical examination, your healthcare professional might press down on your abdomen in order to see if there is any tenderness or pain in the abdomen. Further, the following tests may be performed :


• Liver function tests : these tests are performed in order to gauge the proper functioning of your liver. Abnormal results in the liver tests are an indication of the presence of a Viral Hepatitis, especially if you are not showing any signs of a liver disease.


• Blood tests : blood tests that check for the presence of Viral Hepatitis viruses may then be performed.


• Ultrasound : an Ultrasound of the abdomen may be performed to create an image of the organs within the abdomen. This is a useful test in determining if the damage caused to the liver is due to any reason other than Viral Hepatitis.


• Liver Biopsy : a Liver biopsy is an invasive procedure wherein your healthcare professional takes a sample of tissue from within your liver in order to determining how inflammation or infection has occurred to the liver and confirm the presence of the Viral Hepatitis infection in the body.


Treatment of Viral Hepatitis


The different Viral Hepatitis infections have different lines of treatment :


• Hepatitis A


Hepatitis A is a short term condition that generally does not require any treatment. Proper hydration and nutrition, along with appropriate rest and sleep are enough to get rid of the Hepatitis A infection.


• Hepatitis B


Antiviral medications are prescribed in order to cure the chronic Hepatitis B infection. These may be needed to be continued for several months or even years, accompanied by regular monitoring in order to make sure that the body is responding to the treatment.


• Hepatitis C


A combination of antiviral drug therapies are used in order to treat the Hepatitis C infection. In case of serious damage to the liver due to the Hepatitis C infection, a liver transplant may also be needed to be undertaken.

• Hepatitis D


Currently, no specific drug exists for the treatment of Hepatitis D. A drug known as Alpha Interferon may be used for treatment, but it only shows improvement in about 25 to 30 percent cases of Hepatitis D infections.


• Hepatitis E


The Hepatitis E infection is an acute infection and typically gets resolved on its own. As it is, no specific drug exists for the treatment of Hepatitis E. Increased consumption of fluids and proper nutrition, abstinence from alcohol and adequate rest are all advised in order to cure the infection.



Prevention of Viral Hepatitis


In order to avoid Hepatitis A and E, proper hygiene is recommended. Avoiding


• Local, unfiltered water,


• Open ice,


• Raw fruits and vegetables and


• Raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish


will help keep the infections at bay.


Refraining from sharing shaving implements, drug needles and toothbrushes, as well as making sexual contact with an infected individual are some ways to avoid contracting Hepatitis B, C and E infections.