Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by viruses, medications, or toxic agents. Hepatitis is usually characterized as viral hepatitis or non-viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis can be considered “acute” (a condition that comes on rapidly with severe symptoms and a short course) or “chronic” (a condition that comes on slowly, may or may not have symptoms with has a long course).


Causes and Risk Factors of Hepatitis

Currently, there are at least five (5) forms of viral hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis D
  • Hepatitis E
  • Hepatitis G

There are two main types of non viral hepatitis called

  • alcoholic hepatitis
  • toxic/drug-induced hepatitis

Two less common types of non viral hepatitis called

  • autoimmune hepatitis
  • granulomatous hepatitis

Symptoms of Hepatitis

Hepatitis produces an initial “acute phase,” often with few if any symptoms. If there are symptoms, they tend to mimic “flu-like” symptoms such as:

  • mild fever

  • muscle or joint aches

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • loss of appetite

  • slight abdominal pain

  • diarrhea

  • fatigue

The acute phase and its symptoms is rarely serious or fatal, although occasionally a so called fulminant or rapidly progressing form leads to death.

As the condition worsens, the person also may experience these additional symptoms:

  • jaundice (yellowed skin, mucous membranes and eye-whites)

  • dark urine

  • light colored stools that may contain pus

  • itching

  • enlarged spleen (symptom of alcoholic hepatitis only)

  • hives

  • headache (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)

  • dizziness (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)

  • drowsiness (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)

  • circulation problems (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)

  • The course of the hepatitis and the different outcomes after the acute phase that distinguish the various types.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis

The doctor will take a thorough medical history with emphasis on the patient’s medications, alcohol consumption, previous surgeries and sexual activity. He or she may palpate the area over the liver to check for tenderness or enlargement.

If the skin becomes jaundiced and the person is exhibiting other symptoms of hepatitis, the doctor will do various lab tests, such as blood tests and liver panel tests. Additional lab tests include the antibody tests (ELISA II, RIBA II) and the hepatitis C RNA test via PCR technology for diagnosis of hepatitis C only.

If needed, the doctor may also perform a liver biopsy where a small portion of the liver would be taken for further examination under a microscope.

Prevention of Hepatitis

  • To prevent hepatitis A, remember to:
  • Wash hands well after using any washroom.

  • Eat only freshly cooked foods.

  • Drink only commercially bottled water or boiled water in places where sanitation and the water supply are questionable and do not eat non-peel able raw fruits or vegetables unless cleaned thoroughly.

  • Get a hepatitis A vaccination before traveling to areas such as Mexico, eastern Europe and developing countries.

  • To prevent hepatitis B, remember to:
     

    • Tell your sex-partners if you are a carrier.

    • Practice safe sex.

    • Don’t share needles, razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools or other items that could bear contaminated blood.

    • Get the hepatitis B vaccination series if you are at risk.

    • Don’t allow yourself to be pierced with non-sterile equipment.

  • To prevent hepatitis C, remember to:
     

    • (if carrier) Cover open wounds, don’t share razors or manicure tools.

    • Practice safe sex.

    • Don’t share needles, razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools or other items that could bear contaminated blood.

    • Don’t allow yourself to be pierced with non-sterile equipment.

    • Limit alcohol intake.

    • Never share IV drug needles or other drug equipment.

  • To prevent hepatitis D, remember to:
     

    • Since the hepatitis D virus cannot infect on its own without hepatitis B, use the preventive measures outlined in hepatitis B.

  • To prevent hepatitis E, remember to:
     

    • Wash hands well after using any washroom.

    • Eat only well and freshly cooked foods.

    • Drink only commercially bottled water or boiled water in places where sanitation and the water supply are questionable, and don’t eat non-peel able raw fruits or vegetables unless cleaned thoroughly.

  • To prevent alcoholic hepatitis, remember to:
     

    • Limit the amount of alcohol consumption.

  • To prevent toxic/drug-induced hepatitis, remember to:
     

    • Be aware of the lethal contents of all chemicals.

    • Face the spray away from the body.

    • Wear protective equipment if applicable.