Hepatitis A, B, and C

Hepatitis A, B, and C: Causes, Symptoms, Transmission, Treatment

Hepatitis is the inflammation affecting your liver. It is mainly caused by a viral infection. But, certain conditions can also result in liver inflammation. Autoimmune hepatitis is the inflammation occurring due to the reaction from alcohol, toxins, drugs, or medications. In such cases, your body produces antibodies that attack your liver tissue. But, the majority of cases of liver inflammation occurs due to the attack by viruses. You can classify the condition based on the type of virus attacking the liver. In this article, you will read more about the viral infection causing liver inflammation. Hepatitis A, B, and C can cause serious problems that can have fatal results. You can protect yourself from the viral infection with vaccination and other precautionary measures.

Function Of Liver

Function Of Liver

Before going into the viral infection affecting the liver function, you need to know why the organ is important. The liver is a vital organ in your body. It is located in the upper quadrant of your abdomen. You can only feel the organ when it has enlarged size. The organ performs some critical function that can have an impact on your overall metabolism. So, the functions of the liver are:

  • Help in digestion by producing bile
  • Filtering the toxins from the body
  • Flushing out bilirubin (the product resulting from the breakdown of red blood cells, cholesterol, drugs, and hormones) from the body
  • Breakdown the carbohydrates, protein, and fats in the food items
  • Activate specialized protein known as enzymes for essential body functions
  • Store glycogen (a form of sugar)
  • Store vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and minerals
  • Synthesis of albumin (blood proteins)
  • Synthesizing clotting factors

Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common cause of liver inflammation. In most cases, people may not see any signs immediately after the infection. Therefore, the acute phase (the first few weeks after infection) has no symptoms associated with the problem. You only start observing the signs when the condition starts causing damage to your liver.

Among the viral infection, the type A is more contagious compared to others. But, it also resolves without causing any problems to the liver. Type B and C are more serious as the virus can cause severe health complications, including liver failure. It is important to seek treatment for viral infection as early as possible. The treatments differ depending on the type of viral infection. But, you can safeguard your liver through immunizations and lifestyle modifications.

Learn About Hepatitis A, B, And C

Among the different kinds of viral liver infections, hepatitis A, B, and C are common ones affecting people. Read ahead to know more.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A

 

An infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) can result in liver inflammation. HAV viral infection occurs when you consume contaminated food or water. The contamination occurs with the fecal matter from an infected person. The problem is common among travelers who visit areas suffering from Hepatitis A epidemic. Children who attend daycare centers also face the risk of HAV infection.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B

It is the viral infection triggered by hepatitis B infection (HBV). It transmits from one person to another in the following conditions:

  • When you get exposed to infected body fluids (vaginal secretions, blood or semen)
  • Injection of recreational drugs
  • Have unprotected sex with an infected partner
  • Share razors, acupuncture needles, manicure equipment

Therefore, the condition is common among healthcare professionals. They are exposed to bodily fluids on a daily basis. It is also prevalent among people with drug use and who have unsafe sex. The condition may not cause any signs at the beginning. So, most people know about it during a routine checkup or after liver damage.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C

It is the infection affecting your liver by hepatitis C virus (HCV). The transmission of HCV occurs when you come in direct contact with the infected body fluids. So, it spreads through sexual contact or injection drug use. When you have unprotected sex with an infected person or share needles with an affected person, you can catch the infection. It is one of the most common blood-borne viral infection. A huge population around the world live with the chronic form of the infection.

Symptoms Of Hepatitis

In most of the cases, people suffering from chronic hepatitis B and C may not have any symptoms. The symptoms may not appear in the beginning. You can only see the symptoms after the infection affects your liver function. But, signs and symptoms associated with hepatitis can appear quickly. So, you need to observe your body for signs like:

When you suffer from a chronic condition, the inflammation of the liver continues for at least six months. Initially, you suffer mild problems. So, it causes only little damage. As time progresses, the condition can trigger serious problems, including destroying the liver cells. Therefore, you can see additional signs like:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Bruise easily
  • Spontaneous bleeding
  • The confusion that can lead to coma

Diagnosing Hepatitis

You may not see symptoms at the beginning for chronic cases. The doctor detects the condition during a routine checkup or blood tests. But, if you see the symptoms associated with liver infection, then you need to see a doctor. The doctor usually performs some diagnostic tests to detect the exact issue.

Physical Examination

Your doctor diagnoses hepatitis A, B, and C by performing a thorough physical assessment. Your doctor will ask a question about your medical history and determine the risk factors you have for getting infectious or non-infectious hepatitis. The physical examination by gently pressing down your abdomen detects abdominal pain or tenderness. Your doctor can also check if you suffer from an enlarged liver. Your doctor checks the skin and eyes. It is to confirm jaundice, which points towards liver infection/inflammation.

Liver Function Tests

The test also called liver chemistries can help identify the problems with your liver. You need to give a sample of your blood for testing. It measures the levels of liver enzymes, proteins, and bilirubin in the blood. The test can determine the efficiency of your liver function. If the tests provide abnormal tests, then it indicates some problem with your liver. It is specifically important as some people may not show any signs of liver disease during physical examination. If the test results show high liver enzyme levels, then it indicates the following conditions:

  • Your liver experiences stress
  • The liver is not functioning properly
  • Damage of liver

Other Blood Tests

In some patients, the liver function tests come back normal. So, the doctor suggests other blood tests to detect the exact source of the problem. The blood tests check for the presence of viruses triggering hepatitis. The specific blood tests can detect the presence of antibodies, which points towards conditions like autoimmune hepatitis.

Nucleic Acid Test

If you suffer from the infection due to HAV or HCV, the nucleic acid tests can confirm the speed of viral reproduction in the liver. The HCV RNA or HBV DNA test can show the active nature of the disease.

Ultrasound

Your doctor can suggest imaging tests like ultrasound to check the liver. An abdominal ultrasound test uses sound waves to generate the image of the organs in your abdomen region. So, it aids your doctor to take a close look at the liver as well as the nearby organs. The imaging tests can reveal the following:

  • Fluid presence in the abdomen
  • Liver enlargement
  • Liver tumors
  • Abnormalities of the gallbladder (like gallstones)
  • Liver enlargement

In some cases, the test can show the images of the pancreas. It allows the doctor to check the problems of the organ. So, your doctor can uncover the exact cause of your abnormal liver function.

Liver Biopsy

Liver biopsy is an invasive procedure to extract the sample tissue from your liver. Your doctor performs the procedure. But, it requires no surgery. The doctor inserts a needle through your skin to take the sample. Ultrasound guides the doctor to get the sample. The sample is tested in the lab. It can detect the abnormal cells (cancerous) in the liver and detect diseases like cirrhosis. The test also gives information about how inflammation or infection has affected the organ.

Complications Of Hepatitis

If you ignore the viral infection, then you need to brace yourself for the serious complications. When you fail to get proper medical help, chronic hepatitis B or C can cause severe complication to the liver. You will face the risk of the following conditions:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Chronic liver disease

The viral infection can result in liver damage. So, your liver stops functioning normally. It can lead to liver failure. The complications associated with liver failure include:

  • Ascites (the buildup of fluid in your abdomen)
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Portal Hypertension (the increase blood pressure in your portal veins, which enter your liver)
  • Kidney Failure
  • Hepatic Encephalopathy (the condition occurring due to accumulation of toxins like ammonia that can affect brain function)
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (a form of liver cancer)
  • Death

Apart from getting medical help, you must also try to avoid certain products that can accelerate your liver disease and result in complete failure of the organ. Try to refrain from the following products:

  • Alcohol
  • Certain supplements
  • Medications

So, you need to get the advice from your doctor to avoid actions that can worsen your liver health.

Treating Hepatitis

The treatment options are determined by the exact type of hepatitis and the severity of the problem. Your doctor diagnoses the exact type to ensure the best treatment. So, the different options available to treat the different types of infection are:

Hepatitis A Treatment

Hepatitis A Treatment

You have no specific treatment to cure HAV infection. In most cases, people affected by the infection need to take bed rest to relieve the symptoms.

Home Treatments

It is a short-term illness that causes little discomfort. But, when you experience severe signs, you need to seek medical care. Seek medical assistance for the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

You need to follow the instructions offered by the doctor for nutrition and hydration.

Vaccination

You can also get a vaccination to prevent infection. For children, it is available in a series of two shots. The first shot is given between 12 months and 18 months of age. The Follow-up dose is administered six to eighteen months after getting the first dose. Adults can get a combination vaccination that protects both HAV and HAB. The vaccination is effective when you are not exposed to HAV.

Treatment After Exposure

Adults who HAV exposure can undergo a treatment called immune serum globulin to prevent the infection. In most cases, the treatment shows an effect within two weeks of exposure.

Hepatitis B Treatment Options

The treatment options depend on the type of HBV and its severity.

Acute Hepatitis B

It does not require specific treatment. The condition can resolve with bed rest. The short-lived infection can resolve on its own. You have to drink plenty of fluids and get proper nutrition. Your doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to prevent complications. In some severe cases, you need antiviral drugs to prevent worsening of symptoms.

Chronic Hepatitis B

The chronic condition does not resolve completely. You need to take medication for the rest of your life. The doctor can suggest the following treatments based on the severity of the condition:

  • Antiviral medication
  • Interferon injections
  • Liver transplant

The treatment options are costly and need constant evaluation to know how the virus affects your liver.

Vaccination For Hepatitis B

You can prevent HBV from infecting your liver by getting the vaccination. All newborns are recommended for hepatitis B vaccination. The vaccination has three series, which is completed within the first six months after the birth of the child. People who are at risk of HBV exposure (like medical or healthcare professionals) need the vaccination to protect themselves from the viral infection.

Hepatitis C Treatment Options

Like the other forms of hepatitis, HCV treatment is based on the severity of the condition. So, your doctor can suggest the following methods:

  • For both acute and chronic forms of the infection, your doctor prescribes antiviral medications. In chronic cases, your doctor suggests a combination of antiviral drugs to reduce the symptoms.
  • In some cases, people can develop cirrhosis. Chronic conditions can cause scarring of the liver. It requires a liver transplant.

You have no vaccination available to prevent HCV. Therefore, you need to maintain caution to prevent the type of infection from affecting your liver.

Preventing Hepatitis

You need to take precautions against possible infection due to Hepatitis. It is because the infection is difficult to treat properly. So, you need to take measures to prevent it from infecting you. Each type of infection has different preventive measures.

Preventive Measures For Avoiding Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A spread from one person to another through infected water and food. So, you need to take steps to avoid the infection by taking care of what you eat and drink. It is especially important when you travel from one place to another. Therefore, follow the pointers suggested below to protect yourself from the infection:

  • Wash your hands with soap or liquid hand wash after using the toilet
  • Eat cooked food. Try to avoid raw food items as they can cause infection
  • Drink only boiled water or commercially bottled water (as you have no idea about local sanitation)
  • If you visit a place of unreliable sanitation consume only fruits that you can peel (like oranges or banana)
  • While consuming raw vegetable take extra precaution to clean and disinfect them thoroughly

Ask your doctor for HAV vaccination before traveling to places with a high risk of the infection

Preventing Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B spread mostly through sexual contact and using needles. So, you need to minimize the risk of transmission by following the suggestion provided below:

  • If you have an active sex life, then it is important to find out the possibility of your partner carrying the disease.
  • People with the infection need to convey it to their partner
  • Practice safe sex by using condoms
  • Use clean, unused, and disposable needles
  • Never share razors, toothbrushes or manicure instruments
  • Ensure you allow the use of sterilized skin perforating equipment for acupuncture, piercing or tattoo
  • If you feel at risk, then take HBV vaccination

Preventive Measures For Hepatitis C

The infection is often passed from one person to another through the transfer of infected bodily fluids. So, you can follow the points suggested below to avoid HCV transmission:

  • Never share needles. Always use disposable needles and throw them away after use.
  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes or manicure equipment
  • Ensure the skin perforating equipment is well-sterilized before using it on your body
  • Avoid injecting recreational drugs
  • Consume alcohol within the suggested limits
  • Talk to your doctor before taking any medication as it may affect your liver health

Remember, you have a cure available only for hepatitis A and C. HBV is a serious infection with no cure. So, you have to maintain caution to prevent the infection from causing havoc in your life.

Hepatitis Prognosis

If you suffer from the infection, you may wonder about your chances of recovery. The different types of infection have different recovery chances

Hepatitis A

It is the infection with high rates of recovery. A person with HAV can get rid of the infection within two months without any long-term complication. It also leaves antibodies that keep you immune to hepatitis A for the rest of your life.

Hepatitis B

As HBV infection affects both adults and children, the recover chances differ. For adults, the condition comes under control within three months. But, 20% of the adults become carriers for the infection. So, they are vulnerable to the infection in the future. While others achieve lifelong immunity. Infants, older children, and people with immunity issues can develop severe health complications due to HBV. The infection can cause liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Hepatitis C

Around 15%-25% of the people affected by HCV can clear the infection without any treatment. Even after undergoing treatment, 70%-85% of the affected people are vulnerable to the infection in the future. In rare cases, the condition becomes fatal.

Conclusion

Some people can completely recover from hepatitis infection. Others may suffer from long-term issues. But, even with complete recovery, you require several months for the liver to heal completely. You need to follow the suggestions and medications provided by the doctor to ensure a speedy recovery. It is better to prevent the infection than seek treatment. So, try to follow the preventive measures and avoid the infection from affecting you. Get vaccinations to protect yourself from the viral infection and keep the liver safe.

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