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What is Hepatitis & How is it Treated?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 10 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Hepatitis; Liver; Inflammation;

Hepatitis is a term that is used to describe inflammation of the liver. This can occur for a number of reasons, and in fact there are seven types of hepatitis that can affect humans.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus. This virus spreads easily between people from everyday contact of through some forms of sexual contact. It causes the liver to swell and can make the person very unwell with general symptoms of tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and a lack of appetite.Fortunately this type of hepatitis will normally clear up on its own as long as the person stays hydrated and rests.In the UK most children are vaccinated against the virus before they start nursery though it is still common in civilisations with poor sanitation.

Hepatitis B

This form of hepatitis is potentially very dangerous and can cause severe liver disease. It is passed between people through exchange of body fluids and during childbirth.Symptoms can vary to none at all to yellowing of the skin, tiredness and aching in the joints and muscles, pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting and changes in appetite.Without treatment the damage to the liver can be fatal.Those who are most at risk can receive a vaccination against the disease; alternatively do not share needles, razors, and always use condoms.

Hepatitis C

Spread through contact with infected blood and blood products, hepatitis C can affect the liver and cause similar symptoms to those with hepatitis B but may not present with any symptoms at all.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D can only occur in those who are hepatitis B positive. It is not a consequence of the hepatitis B but can only be contracted by those who are hep B positive. It is usually transmitted from blood and blood products, though it is possible to contract it through other methods but this is rare.When hep D and hep B are both active and present the liver can become severely damaged, sometimes permanently.

Hepatitis E

This form of hepatitis causes liver damage but normally the body will recover from it. It is very dangerous in pregnancy, particularly the early stages.It is normally contracted through exposure to contaminated food products and water, or because of poor hygiene and sanitation.Symptoms can include aching, tiredness, nausea, gastric disturbances and abdominal pain.

Hepatitis

This virus is a fairly recent discovery and one that most of the public are not aware of.As it is a new discovery there is not too much information at present but is it thought to cause acute liver inflammation and those who regularly receive blood products seem most at risk.Experts believe it may be related to hepatitis C and continue to carry out research.

Toxic Hepatitis

This form of hepatitis occurs in those who have exposed their liver to some sort of toxin or poison. The most common form of toxic hepatitis is caused by overdose of drugs such as paracetamol. Often the damage is so severe from these exposures that permanent damage can occur.

Treating Hepatitis

The treatment for hepatitis varies between the types. Often the best actions to take are to drink plenty of water and to ensure that you are not having unprotected sex, sharing needles or knowingly putting others at risk by not informing of your hepatitis status.It is possible to receive a vaccination against many of the types of hepatitis but if it is contracted your healthcare provider may suggest something called Interferon which can be used to treat hepatitis B and hepatitis D.Toxic hepatitis can sometimes be treated depending on the poison that the liver was exposed to.If a person has taken a paracetamol overdose and informs their healthcare provider as soon as possible, there is an antidote available and the success of the drug will depend on blood results that are taken at different stages after administration.

Interferon

Interferon is a product that contains proteins similar to those that are made that are made by the cells in response to certain illnesses including some types of hepatitis. There are 3 main types each having their own mode of mechanism and indications for use. It is given as an injection and may carry some side-effects though these are more bearable than having long term liver damage.

The liver is a very important organ in the human body, but it can become damaged very easily. Hepatitis is normally a viral infection that attacks the liver and causes inflammation; sometimes this can be severe and even permanent.It is important to try and prevent the incidence of hepatitis by protecting yourself, being vaccinated or by respecting the substances that you knowingly put into your body.

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