Viral Hepatitis is an illness caused to the liver by various viruses. There are mainly two types of viral hepatitis- infective (spread by contaminated food and water- Hepatitis A and E ) and blood borne ( spread by contact with contaminated blood and body fluids- Hepatitis B and C).
It is the commonest form of acute viral Hepatitis worldwide. The virus is present in contaminated food and water and affects the liver on entering the body. It causes inflammation in the liver and liver injury. Patient may have tiredness, weakness, low grade fever, bodyache, joint pains and jaundice. It is usually a self-limited illness and resolves on its own over a period of time. Patient needs good supportive care and most importantly good nutrition during the recovery period. Rarely acute Hepatitis A causes complications including confusion, drowsiness and unconsciousness, which can be a dangerous situation and needs specialised care.
The best way to prevent it is to have good hygienic food and clean water, preferably boiled water. Also a vaccine is available for prevention of Hepatitis A.
It is also transmitted through contaminated food and water. It is similar to Hepatitis A but it can be more severe and is more likely to cause complications especially in pregnant ladies. A vaccine is also being developed for its prevention. Again prevention is the key for Hepatitis E.
Patients who face above mentioned symptoms should immediately consult a doctor and take necessary steps as advised to treat and also to recognise early those patients who may land up in complications.
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus which slowly affects the liver and in many patients may be just present in the liver harmlessly, the so called carrier state. Hence it is important to identify those patients who have liver injury and to treat them. Hepatitis B liver injury if untreated can progress to liver cirrhosis (liver scarring and permanent liver damage ), liver failure and also liver cancer. Medications are easily available for treatment of Hepatitis B and it can be well controlled with medications. Once a patient has advanced cirrhosis, a liver transplant is the only treatment option. Also a very effective vaccine is available for Hepatitis B prevention.
Hepatitis C, like B can cause progressive liver injury, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Very effective oral medical treatment is available for Hepatitis C, which need to be taken for 3 to 6 months only and can cure Hepatitis C. But it is important to screen, identify and treat patients before permanent liver damage has set in. It mostly spreads through transfusion of contaminated blood products.
Hence it is important to be aware and to get yourself screened for these viruses as safe and very effective treatment is available for Hepatitis B and C.
By : Dr. Amit Gupte, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Wockhardt Hospitals