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Hepatitis 101: A Brief Overview

Did you know that over 1 million people around the world die of hepatitis every year? And over 300 million people suffer from it with only 2% getting some kind of treatment. Read on…

What does this say about our fight against Hepatitis? WHO wants to eliminate it by 2030. Are we on track? Will we crush the deadline or miss it? What can we do to protect ourselves? Let's understand this condition and other things through this blog.

What is Hepatitis?

When your liver suffers damage due to viruses, bacteria or an injury, the body sends out its first responders to tackle the situation. This leads to inflammation of the liver, known as Hepatitis.

How does one get Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is basically inflammation of the liver. However, it isn’t caused just by alcohol. In fact, it is commonly caused due to a viral infection. Another cause of hepatitis is when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue. It can also be caused due to side effects of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.

Types of Hepatitis

Since there are many viruses that can lead to Hepatitis, they are classified into 5 categories: Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, where each alphabet represents a virus. Types A and E are acute types of Hepatitis, while B, C, and D are usually deemed to be chronic Hepatitis. Additionally, as mentioned above, one can contract Hepatitis even without a viral infection (non-contagious ways).

Different causes for different types

  • Hepatitis A: Transmitted through HAV (Hepatitis A Virus) in food or water

  • Hepatitis B: If one comes into contact with HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) in body fluids

  • Hepatitis C: If one comes into contact with HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) in body fluids

  • Hepatitis D: Transmitted through HDV (Hepatitis D Virus) in blood

  • Hepatitis E: Transmitted through HEV (Hepatitis E Virus) in food or water

Now that we know about the contagious types and their causes, let’s look at how one can develop the non-contagious type of Hepatitis.

  • Liver inflammation can be a result of excess alcohol consumption that directly injures the cells of your liver. Over time, this may lead to thickening or scarring of tissues and liver failure. This is referred to as Alcoholic Inflammation.

  • Occasionally, the amount of toxins in one’s liver increases significantly due to misuse of medication or overexposure to the same toxins. This can lead to their body assuming their liver to be a threat, thereby causing inflammatory attacks on the liver. This is known as Autoimmune Hepatitis.

Symptoms of Hepatitis

Like every other disease, Hepatitis too can be identified using bodily signs. While they’re really easy to ignore, occasionally, it can become too late until the damage affects the liver function. The usual symptoms are fatigue, flu, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, darker-than-usual urine, paler stool, unexplained weight loss and yellow eyes and skin (which can also point to Jaundice).

What next if you develop the symptoms?

Well, fret not if you develop any of these symptoms. You can verify whether you have Hepatitis by a series of tests.

  1. Physical examination by a doctor

  2. Blood work for liver function tests

  3. Other tests to determine the presence of a Hepatitis virus

  4. Ultrasound

  5. Liver Biopsy

What are the treatments?

If any of these tests reveal a positive result, you still need not worry. There are antiviral medicines that treat types A, B, and C of hepatitis. Type D hepatitis is usually treated with pegylated interferon alpha. There is currently no treatment for Type E. However, type E isn’t usually chronic and it resolves on its own.

Prevention is still better than cure

Some hepatitis viruses don’t have a cure. However, many types can usually be avoided using vaccines. Additionally, since most hepatitis virus is contracted through contact with bodily fluids, minimising contact with these substances can help prevent it altogether. You can also prevent hepatitis by taking good care of your liver. You do this limiting your alcohol consumption, avoiding drugs or overusing medicines.

When it comes to hepatitis, doctor consultation, lab tests, medicines, hospitalisation, or a combination of all can prove to be a costly affair. This will drain you financially and could be easily avoided if you have a health plan. Get monthly plans that cover your OPD expenses, without any jargons and loopholes here.

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