According to WHO, more than 250 million people around the world are diagnosed with hepatitis B, and another 180 million are diagnosed with hepatitis C. Every day, thousands of people learn that they are infected with these viruses, and according to statistics, 1.4 million of them die from this diagnosis or due to various complications.
To reduce these terrifying numbers, you must know about this disease as much as possible.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a term used to refer to acute and chronic liver diseases. The most common cause of this disease is the hepatitis virus, but it is worth noting that the culprits are a variety of infections, excessive consumption of alcohol, drugs, and medications.
Types of hepatitis
There are 5 separate hepatitis viruses, identified by the letters A, B, C, D and E. All of them cause liver disease, but there are significant differences between them.
- Hepatitis A virus is present in the feces of infected people and is most often transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water. In many cases, infections are mild, most people recover completely and remain immune to subsequent infections. Most people in poor sanitation areas of the world are infected with this virus. There are safe and effective vaccines to prevent hepatitis A;
- Hepatitis B virus is transmitted by contact with infected blood, sperm and other body fluids. Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth or from a family member to a young child. Transmission can also occur by transfusion of blood and blood products infected with viral hepatitis B, by injection of contaminated equipment during medical procedures, and by injecting drugs. Hepatitis B virus also poses a risk to healthcare professionals who suffer needle-stick injuries when caring for patients infected with hepatitis B. There is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent hepatitis B;
- Hepatitis C virus is also mainly transmitted through contact with infected blood. This can occur during transfusion of blood and blood products infected with hepatitis C virus, when injected with contaminated equipment during medical procedures, and when injecting drugs are used. Sexual transmission can also occur but this is much less common. There is no vaccine against hepatitis C;
- Hepatitis D virus can only infect people who are infected with hepatitis B. Double infection (viral hepatitis D and viral hepatitis B) can lead to a more serious illness and worse outcome. Safe and effective hepatitis B vaccines provide protection against viral hepatitis D infection;
- Hepatitis E virus, like hepatitis A virus, is transmitted in most cases through the consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis E virus often leads to outbreaks of hepatitis in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as a significant cause of disease in developing countries. Safe and effective vaccines have been developed to prevent viral hepatitis E infection, but there is no widespread access to them.
Forms of hepatitis
There are two main forms of the clinical course of hepatitis: acute and chronic.
The acute form of the course is most characteristic of viral hepatitis, as well as for hepatitis caused by poisoning, including strong poisons.
In the acute form of hepatitis, there is a noticeable deterioration in the general condition of the patient, signs of general intoxication of the body and impaired liver function (in some cases jaundice develops), as well as an increase in the level of transaminases and total blood bilirubin.
This form of the disease has favorable prognoses (unless it is transformed into a chronic one). In the acute form, the disease is easily diagnosed and easier to treat. Untreated acute hepatitis easily develops into a chronic form. Sometimes with severe poisoning (for example, alcohol), the chronic form occurs on its own.
The chronic form can develop independently (for example, with chronic poisoning with ethyl alcohol), or continue the development of acute hepatitis (viral hepatitis B, D). The clinical picture in chronic hepatitis is poor, the disease is asymptomatic for a long time. Common signs are a persistent increase in liver size, dull pain in the right hypochondrium, intolerance to fatty foods, etc.
In chronic hepatitis, liver cells are gradually replaced by connective tissue, so in most cases untreated chronic hepatitis causes cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis patients are at high risk for developing primary liver cancer.
Who should test for hepatitis virus?
If you have symptoms, you should immediately consult a doctor and undergo appropriate studies. A mandatory check must also be carried out in cases of high risk of infection in the following categories of people:
- those undergoing dialysis;
- those living with infected hepatitis in the same living area;
- those having the chronic liver disease;
- HIV infected people;
- those who doubt the sterility of the used stitching and cutting tools when receiving cosmetic, dental and tattoo services in relevant institutions;
- those who had unprotected sex;
- medical staff and others.
Manifestations of hepatitis differ from each other and depend directly on the cause of the damage to the liver. There are cases when hepatitis does not differ in specific symptoms or is completely asymptomatic. Only a detailed survey and a thorough examination of the patient allow the specialist to diagnose hepatitis in such cases. But in order for the diagnosis to be approved as final, additional studies may be needed.
Laboratory diagnosis of hepatitis includes:
- Clinical blood test;
- Gamma GT;
- Direct and total bilirubin;
- alkaline phosphatase;
- Albumin and total protein in serum;
- Copper in the blood;
- Total cholesterol;
- Anti-HCV, antibodies, ELISA;
- Cytological examination of punctate, as well as scrapings of other tissues and organs;
- Screening study to detect the presence of psychotropic, narcotic and potent substances.
Symptoms of hepatitis
As a rule, liver diseases do not manifest themselves for a very long time and do not give any symptoms. Hepatitis A virus multiplies in the body from a week to a month. The ailments that occur during the time the virus has multiplied and adapted to the body can be mistaken for a mild cold. After usual fatigue, aches throughout the body and minor headaches, a slight increase in temperature follows. Further, the patient manifests jaundice, it can be ill for almost a month, but the state of the body during this period improves. Some patients have an anicteric form, in which case the disease is chronic. This often happens with hepatitis B. In the future, this leads to cirrhosis, and neglect of the disease and non-compliance with medical recommendations leads to liver cancer. Hepatitis B manifests itself much more slowly than A, it can develop its virus in the body for six months, sometimes accompanied by a mild temperature. The incubation period of hepatitis C can be from 20 to 140 days. Symptoms include joint pain, jaundice, stool disorders, nausea, sudden weight loss, weakness and fatigue, itching and the appearance of a capillary network on the surface of the skin.
The selection of hepatitis treatment methods depends on the form of the disease. Viral hepatitis is not so dangerous. Throughout the course of the illness, the patient should observe bed rest. It is necessary to reduce the consumption of fats and switch to a protein-carbohydrate diet. It is recommended to increase the amount of fluid consumed. Various juices and alkaline mineral waters should be consumed by patients (2-3 liters per day). To increase immunity, vitamins (B1, B2, B6, PP) and ascorbic acid are prescribed. If the form of the disease is moderate, a doctor can prescribe a glucose solution that is administered intravenously. If the form of the disease is severe, glucocorticoid drugs are prescribed. Hepatitis treatment should be prescribed and supervised by a doctor. In the treatment of viral hepatitis, protein inhibitors are prescribed. Herbal medicine in the fight against hepatitis plays a significant role. In the midst of the disease, especially when an acute period begins, the use of herbs positively affects the body. Special anti-inflammatory actions will also be useful. Vitamin teas also have a beneficial effect on the course of the disease. They are prepared from berries of mountain ash, rose hips, currants. Treatment for chronic hepatitis is only slightly different from viral. Patients should also follow a diet. The metabolic processes that occur in the cells of the liver increase due to drug therapy. Vitamins and protein hydrolysates should be taken. If the condition deteriorates and with the diseases actively develops, the doctor may prescribe prednisone. The duration of treatment with the drug is six months or a year, given the condition of the patient. The dose should be gradually reduced to a minimum. A person who has had hepatitis gains a lifelong immunity. Hepatitis vaccination is popular. With its help, immunity develops in people who have never had this disease. It protects the body from viruses that spread hepatitis.
- Say no to drugs and alcohol;
- Comply with medical recommendations and instructions when taking medications;
- Fight against excess weight;
- Use protective equipment when working with toxic chemicals.