Hepatitis means injury to the liver with inflammation of the Liver cells. There are five main types that are caused by a virus, A, B, C, D and E – plus types X and G.
Viral Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C causes 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
Globally, around 250 million people are affected by Hepatitis C and 300 million are estimated to be Hepatitis B carriers.
Causes and Mode of Transmission
Most liver damage is caused by 3 hepatitis viruses, called Hepatitis A, B and C. However, hepatitis can also be caused by alcohol and some other toxins and infections, as well as from our own autoimmune process (the body attacks itself).
Hepatitis A – caused by consuming contaminated food or water, Anal –oral contact during sex can also be a cause. Nearly everyone who develops Hepatitis A makes a full recovery; it does not lead to chronic disease.
Hepatitis B – is a sexually transmitted disease and can be spread by contact with infected blood, semen, some body fluids or being bitten by someone who is infected. A baby can become infected through his mother’s milk if she is infected.
The liver swells and the patient can suffer serious liver damage due to infection resulting in cancer. For some patients the hepatitis becomes chronic (very long term or lifelong).
Hepatitis C – Usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease.
Liver can swell and become damaged but liver cancer risk is only increased in people with Cirrhosis (late scarring of the liver) but only 20% of C patients get Cirrhosis.
Hepatitis D – A person can only become infected with D if they are already infected with B
Hepatitis E – Caused by drinking water that contains the E virus. Liver swells but no long term consequences. Infection is also possible through anal-oral sex.
Hepatitis X – If hepatitis cannot be attributed to the viruses of A, B, C, D or E then it’s called Hepatitis X – in other words, hepatitis of an unknown virus.
Hepatitis G – Caused by the G virus but usually no symptoms and when there are symptoms, they are very mild.
Acute Phase: Symptoms are like a mild flu and may include
- Loss of appetite
- Mild fever
- Muscle or joint aches
- Slight abdominal pain
- Weight loss
As the patient gets worse, these symptoms follow
- Dark urine
- Itchy skin
- Light colored feces, feces may contain pus.
- Yellow skin, whites of eyes, tongue (jaundice)
Other patient outcomes depend on various factors especially the type of Hepatitis.
- For A & E, employ strict hygiene guidelines, hand washing, properly cooked meals, wash fruits and vegetables before eating them; get vaccinated when travelling to areas where the disease is endemic.
- Hep B, C & D – Practice safe sex, don’t share needles, toothbrushes, razors, manicure instruments, drug equipment, only allow well sterilized skin perforating equipment (tattoo, acupuncture).
- Reduce alcohol intake.
- No treatment required for Hep A, usually clears spontaneously
- Hepatitis B patients need rest, a diet high in protein and carbohydrate and in some cases drugs. Hepatitis C can be treated with drugs,and the person may be considered ‘cured’. (Reduction of the viral load to undetectable levels)
- Hepatitis D & E have no effective treatment.
We recommend that if you have any of the symptoms above, you should go see a doctor.