The word hepatitis is a Greek word hepar meaning ‘liver’, and the Latin itis meaning inflammation. Hepatitis mean inflammation of the liver cells. Hepatitis is a medical condition defined by the inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis may occur with limited or no symptoms, but often leads to jaundice, anorexia and malaise. A group of viruses known as the hepatitis viruses (A.B.C) cause most cases of hepatitis worldwide. Most liver damage is caused by these three hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis can also be caused by toxic elements, alcohol, certain medications, some industrial organic solvents and plants, other infections and autoimmune diseases.
Hepatitis can heal on its own with no significant consequence, or it can progress to scarring of the liver. In many cases when hepatitis is caused by a virus, hepatitis causes no noticeable symptoms so, many people are unaware they are infected. Similarly, many people with hepatitis caused by alcohol are unaware that their drinking is harming their liver. Some types of hepatitis will pass without causing permanent damage to the liver. Hepatitis viruses multiply (replicate) in the liver cells. New viruses are released into the blood stream from where they spread to other organs or to other persons exposed to the infected blood. According to its duration hepatitis divided into two groups.
Acute hepatitis – The initial phase of hepatitis is called the acute phase. Patient outcomes after the acute phase depend on various factors, especially the type of hepatitis. Hepatitis is acute when it lasts less than six months. The symptoms of acute hepatitis vary considerably from person to person. Some patients have no symptoms at all, and in most cases, children only show mild symptoms. Acute hepatitis has a number of possible causes. Infectious viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E. Other viral diseases, such as glandular fever and cytomegalovirus. Severe bacterial infections. Amoebic infections. Medicines, eg paracetamol poisoning and halothane (an anaesthetic). Toxins: alcohol and fungal toxins, eg toadstool poisoning. The acute phase is not usually dangerous, unless it develops into the fulminant or rapidly progressing form, which can lead to death.
Chronic hepatitis – can persist for many years and cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and, in the most serious cases, liver failure (loss of liver function), which can be fatal. These types of long-lasting hepatitis are known as chronic hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis has a number of different causes. Infectious hepatitis, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and hepatitis D. Drug reactions. Toxins, such as alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis. Inborn metabolic disorders, such as Wilson’s disease.
How hepatitis develop?
A person can develop hepatitis if they carry one of the virus that can cause liver inflammation, or exposure to substances that can cause hepatitis – alcohol, fungal toxins and certain medicines. The two ways medicines can cause hepatitis: either occur as a result of medicine poisoning through overdoses of a medicine (paracetamol) or it can occur due to abnormal reaction of the liver to a normal dose (halothane). The latter type of hepatitis is rare.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis
Many people with Hepatitis having either mild symptoms or none at all. Initial symptoms of hepatitis caused by infection are similar to the flu and include: Muscle and joint pain, High temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above, Feeling sick, Headache, Occasionally yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). Symptoms of chronic hepatitis can include: Feeling unusually tired all the time, Depression, Jaundice, A general sense of feeling unwell
Hepatitis Preventive Measures
By controlling exposure to the infectious hepatitis viruses. Vaccination of hepatitis A and hepatitis B, Avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol if you have symptoms of hepatitis. If alcoholism is the cause, you must stop drinking completely. Eat a well-balanced diet. If you have hepatitis A, you must inform your family, so that they can protect themselves against it by practising good hygiene and seek advice on vaccination and other preventive measures. If your job involves food handling, your doctor will advise you on when it is safe to return to work. People with hepatitis B must inform their family and their sexual partners about it. Protect themselves by being vaccinated. Condoms should be used until the vaccine has begun to work. If you have chronic hepatitis, you should have regular clinic review by your specialist.
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
Blood tests will help determine the cause and severity of the hepatitis. Further information may be obtained from ultrasound and other types of liver scans. In certain situations a liver biopsy may be recommended. This involves taking a tiny piece of the liver to look at under the microscope. The procedure is generally done under local anaesthetic as a day case in a specialist unit.
Acute infection is rarely life threatening. Acute infectious viral hepatitis usually improves with no specific treatment. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can become chronic. Hepatitis A never does. Acute hepatitis caused by medicines or alcohol usually improves once the liver is no longer exposed to these substances. About one fifth of the patients with chronic hepatitis B and C are at risk of developing cirrhosis or cancer of the liver can. Cirrhosis can also be caused by other types of chronic hepatitis.
No medical treatment is generally required for acute viral hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis B can be treated with interferon or other antiviral agents. Chronic hepatitis C can be treated with interferon and ribavirin. Autoimmune hepatitis can by treated with corticosteroids.