Understanding about Hepatitis: Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment

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Hepatitis test

Viral or non-viral Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. It can be caused by a viral infection (hepatitis A, B, C) and other factors such as side effect of medications, drugs, toxins, alcohol, and autoimmune reaction where the body produces antibodies against the liver tissues. Both viral and non-viral hepatitis can be detected by visible symptoms, physical exams, and private blood tests. A liver biopsy and sonogram can also be used to diagnose hepatitis

Types of hepatitis

There are several types of hepatitis, but only three are common. Common types of hepatitis include

  • Hepatitis A

This type of hepatitis is highly contagious, but it doesn’t affect anyone for long. Hepatitis A usually clears off on its own within two months. Vaccination can be used to prevent it, and it is transmitted by eating and drinking anything that is contaminated with an infected person’s stool.

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  • Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B has a high risk of causing long term liver damage, but most children and adults can recover from the condition in 6 months. Infected pregnant women are at risk of transferring the virus to her newborn during childbirth. Vaccination is a mode of prevention for hepatitis B. The virus can be spread through sexual intercourse with someone who is infected, sharing needles, and direct contact with infected blood or body fluids even when there are no symptoms.

  • Hepatitis C

It is a long term condition and doesn’t show symptoms except in its late stages. Hepatitis C can lead to scarring of the liver tissues (cirrhosis). It cannot be prevented by vaccination and transmitted by sharing needles, having direct contact with infected blood or body fluid, blood transfusions, and having sex with an infected person.

Risk factors for hepatitis infection

The following are risk factors for hepatitis A

  • Having direct contact with persons who have hepatitis A
  • Men who have sex with men
  • High drug usage
  • Clotting factor disorder
  • Working with primates
  • Travelling to a country known for a high incidence of hepatitis A infection
  • Being in close contact with someone who travelled to a country with a high rate of hepatitis A infection

Those who fall in the following categories have a high risk of contracting hepatitis B virus

  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who use intravenous drugs
  • Pregnant women
  • People born in hepatitis B endemic areas
  • People with chronic kidney disease
  • People infected with Hepatitis C virus
  • People infected with HIV
  • People who have sex with someone infected by viral hepatitis B
  • People who have had multiple sex partners within 6 months
  • Family and household members of anyone having hepatitis B
  • People taking medications that weaken the immune system
  • Fetuses whose mothers are infected with the hepatitis B virus
  • People having certain high liver function blood tests

You must be screened for hepatitis C if

  • You received an organ transplant before July 1972
  • You were ever injected with drugs
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965
  • You have HIV
  • Your mother is hepatitis C positive
  • You have consistently high liver enzymes in your blood
  • You were exposed to hepatitis C
  • You have existing signs of liver disease
  • You have had long-term kidney dialysis
  • You received a blood product that was made and used to treat clotting disorders before 1987
  • You have been told that you received blood or an organ from someone who later tested positive for hepatitis C

Routine screening for hepatitis is not necessary, except you are experiencing symptoms or signs of the condition.

Symptoms of viral hepatitis

Viral hepatitis does not always present any symptom, and it is often considered as a silent disease. When these three common viral hepatitis present any symptom, they occur as;

  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Pale or clay coloured stool

Hepatitis A and B also cause pain in the joints.

What to do if you have any of the symptoms of viral hepatitis

If you experience any symptom that is related to viral hepatitis, you need to see your private doctor in London to perform a blood test that will check for the presence of viral hepatitis antibodies. If you test positive for either hepatitis B or C, you will need to get further blood tests done to check for other complication as the stage of the infection.

Acute hepatitis infection occurs within six months of being infected while its chronic stage develops after six months of being infected.

Your health care provider may also ask that you do a liver biopsy or tissue sample to further assess the condition of your liver. A biopsy is carried out by inserting a needle into the liver and collecting fragments of the tissue which will be sent to the lab for analysis.

Treatment for Viral hepatitis

Treatment of any of viral hepatitis depends on the type and stage of the infection. Viable treatments for hepatitis B and C are now available, while more treatments are in their clinical trial stages.

Your health care practitioner should provide you with adequate care and treatment for hepatitis. You can also be referred to a herpetologist (liver specialist) or a gastroenterologist for treatment. You do not need to be hospitalized for treatment except you cannot eat, drink or you are vomiting.

  • Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A usually requires little or no treatment since it is likely to heal within two months of being infected. Eating properly and staying hydrated can help boost your healing process. Vaccination can prevent this viral hepatitis, and if you have had it before you cannot be infected again.

  • Hepatitis B and C

Treatment of hepatitis B and C requires drug therapy. Hepatitis B antiviral medications include

  • Adefovir (Hepsera)
  • Tenofovir (Viread)
  • Peginterferon
  • Telbivudine
  • Entecavir (Baraclude)
  • Lamivudine (Epivir)

Before this time, treatment for hepatitis C was a course of peginterferon and ribavirin for people with genotype 2 and 3 while peginterferon, ribavirin, and a protease inhibitor was used for people with genotype 1. The treatment was effective in 50% – 60% of the infected people but the side effects were difficult to control.

Recently, hepatitis C treatment uses direct antiviral drugs (DAAs). These medications are very effective and free from interferon and ribavirin. Their side effects are also limited. This treatment is simpler, consists of a few pills and require a shorter time to complete.

DAAs are available as single or combined pills in one pill. The daily combined pills which require a duration of 8 – 12 weeks depending on the type of hepatitis C infection include

  • Sofosbuvir-Velpatasvir (Epclusa)
  • Elbasvir-Grazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • Ledipasvir-Sofosbuvir (Harvoni)

Other treatment options include

  • Ombitasvir-Paritaprevir-Ritonavir and Dasabuvir (Viekira Pak, Viekira XR)
  • Ombitasvir-Paritaprevir-Rritonavir (Technivie)
  • Peginterferon, Ribavirin or Sofosbuvir (Solvaldi)
  • Daclatasvir (Daklinza)

Your doctor will know what medication will be best for you based on your medical need.

Hepatitis in pregnant women

If a woman conceives and is infected with viral hepatitis, her doctor will give the baby shots of immune globulin and hepatitis vaccines to prevent the baby from contracting the virus. If a pregnant woman is actively infected with hepatitis B virus, she needs to receive antiviral treatment during the third trimester of her pregnancy.

Hepatitis E can be very fatal in the third trimester of pregnancy. There is a high risk that at birth, a pregnant woman with hepatitis B can transmit the virus to her newborn.

For those at the acute stage of either viral or non-viral hepatitis, it is important to stay away from alcoholic beverages because this will put an extra strain on the already damaged liver.

If you are infected with viral hepatitis, you can get good hepatitis treatment at Walk-in Clinic in London. Remember that the sooner you get treated, the higher your chances at getting better. Getting hepatitis treatment early will also reduce your chances of transmitting the virus to your partner.

Contact Walk in Clinic today on 02070968853 or info@walkinclinic.london for your hepatitis treatment and counselling.

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