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Effective ways to prevent Hepatitis and other Liver Diseases

One of the most vital organs in your body, the liver, works round the clock, digesting complex food molecules and filtering out harmful toxins. Therefore when your liver malfunctions, the aftermath affects your whole body and demands a visit with a gastroenterologist near you.

The most common type of liver damage is an inflammatory condition caused by the hepatitis virus. Viral hepatitis, although caused by a virus, may have secondary roots in improper lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol intake, and drugs.

How many types of viral hepatitis are there and how are they treated?

What are the different types of Hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis is classified into 5 groups based on the virus that causes it. They are-

  1. Hepatitis A: It is an acute disease caused mainly due to consumption of food and water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Virus causing this type is called hepatitis A virus or HAV.

  2. Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B virus or HBV is transmitted through the contact of body fluids of an infected person. This may happen through unprotected sexual intercourse, shared needles & syringes, etc.

  3. Hepatitis C: A chronic disease, hepatitis C virus or HCV spreads through sexual contact or shared needles from an infected person.

  4. Hepatitis D: You can contract the hepatitis D virus or HDV if you are already infected with HBV. The cause of transmission may be through sexual contact or shared needles from an infected person.

  5. Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E virus is waterborne and is caused in areas of poor sanitation.

Other types of non communicable liver diseases include autoimmune liver abnormalities, liver tumors, etc.

Does Hepatitis cause loss of appetite and abdominal pain?

What are the early symptoms of Hepatitis?
Although liver diseases progressively deteriorate with time, it is imperative that initial signs should not be missed, as early detection may be life saving. Some the physical symptoms are:

  1. Yellowish appearing skin and eyes

  2. Loss of appetite

  3. Pain and swelling in the abdominal region

  4. Chronic fatigue

  5. Dark colored urine or pale stools

  6. Nausea or vomiting

As part of an initial examination by your doctor, they may look for any signs of pain or tenderness by pressing down gently around your abdomen. If your eyes exhibit a yellow tint, that will also be noted. Some of the other tests done to diagnose hepatitis are:

  1. Liver Function Tests: These include several blood tests that are done to see how effective your liver functioning is. High liver enzyme levels indicate that your liver may be stressed or damaged. Other tests are done to check for the virus causing the hepatitis.

  2. Ultrasound: This is a non-invasive procedure that allows your doctor to closely observe your liver and the surrounding tissues. This allows them to detect any fluid build up in the liver, liver tumours, gallbladder issues, etc.

  3. Liver Biopsy: An invasive procedure, a biopsy helps your doctor to extract a tissue sample from your liver to detect upto what extent the inflammation exists.

What is the treatment for Hepatitis?
Treatment of Hepatitis depends upon the type of virus contracted and the severity of the symptoms.

  1. Hepatitis A: Since it is an acute disease, no specialized treatment is required. Following the doctor's advice on proper nutrition and hydration, one can fully recover. Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A.

  2. Hepatitis B: Treatment can go on for several months through antiviral medication and constant monitoring. Hepatitis B can be prevented by taking the vaccine. 

  3. Hepatitis C: A combination of antiviral drug therapies is used to treat this type of infection. Currently there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

  4. Hepatitis D: No antiviral medication exists for treatment but Hepatitis D can be avoided by taking the Hepatitis B vaccine.

  5. Hepatitis E: Since the disease is short-termed, it often resolves on its own through adequate rest and proper nutrition.

What are the preventive measures?
Some types of hepatitis are communicable, while the others can be prevented by incorporating certain changes to your lifestyle . Here are some ways to reduce the risk of liver diseases:

  1. Keep a check on your weight: Obesity triggers fatty liver acids that may scar the lining of the liver. Incorporate regular exercise in your schedule to stay fit and active. Eat a balanced diet to promote healthy functioning of your liver.

  2. Limit your alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can cause irreparable damage to your liver. 

  3. Maintain personal hygiene: Following a proper personal hygiene habitude is crucial to curbing the spread of hepatitis. Wash your hands regularly, use only clean cutlery to eat food. Avoid stale food or water, as the chances of contracting the virus is high. Implement safe sex practices and avoid sharing of needles, syringes, etc.Ensure good personal hygiene and practice safe sex to fight Hepatitis

  4. Vaccination: Vaccines are pivotal to restrain the hepatitis causing virus. There are vaccines for hepatitis A and B. Since you can get hepatitis D only if you have hepatitis B, the vaccine can effectively protect you. Ensure that you complete all your vaccination doses to provide maximum boost to your immune system.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis A and B and how effective is it?

Some types of hepatitis can be prevented with immunizations and healthy lifestyle choices, hence it is important to be vigilant. Reaching the stage of complete liver failure may be fatal. Therefore, timely identification of the symptoms and seeking adept medical help can help you recover with minimal hindrance to your everyday life. Visit a doctor near you for consultation or in case of an emergency.