Medically reviewed by Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Shera.
What is hepatitis, you may ask, and then what is all its different variants that we sometimes hear about A, B, C, and sometimes D and E? That’s all too much information if all of these are different things. How do we know what symptoms to look out of or what things to avoid for prevention?
Let’s simplify this very common, yet dangerous disease and find out what things to look out for.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a virus-induced inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis viruses are classified into five kinds, each of which is called after a letter of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, and E, with A, B and C being the most prevalent ones.
(Liver Foundation, 2020)
Millions of individuals across the world are infected with this virus, which cause both short-term sickness and long-term liver damage. According to the World Health Organization, 325 million individuals worldwide are infected with chronic hepatitis B or C. In 2015, 1.34 million people died from viral hepatitis, nearly equaling the number of people who died from TB and HIV combined.
Function of liver
The liver is situated in the upper-right area of the abdomen and is responsible for a variety of functions that affect metabolism throughout the body. These include;
- Production of bile which is essential for digestion.
- Toxin filtration from the body.
- Excretion of hormones, cholesterol and bilirubin which is essential for the functioning of the body.
- Protein, carbohydrate and fat breakdown.
- Enzyme activation, which is the stimulation of specific proteins that are required for human function.
- Storage of essential vitamins, sugars and minerals.
- Synthesis of clotting factors.
It is critical to take precautions. In addition to immunization through vaccinations, people should practice good hygiene (such as washing their hands after using the bathroom) to avoid contracting hepatitis A. Hepatitis B and C can be spread through sexual contact or by sharing needles, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has the virus.
In the case of chronic infectious hepatitis, such as hepatitis B and C, there may be no symptoms at first. Symptoms may not appear until the damage has a detrimental effect on liver function. Symptoms of acute hepatitis may often appear quickly and include;
- Pale stool.
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite.
- Abdominal pain.
- Weight loss.
- Pale eyes and skin, which can also be signs of jaundice.
Prevention through hygiene
One of the most important ways to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E is to maintain good hygiene. Undercooked oysters/shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and local tap water and ice should all be avoided while visiting a developing country.
Hepatitis B, C, and D are contracted through contaminated blood. One can avoid contracting it by not sharing drug needles, razors, or someone else’s toothbrush.
While World Hepatitis Day is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness, tests and vaccines should be promoted all year long. You may help spread awareness in your workplace, community, and beyond by taking tangible measures. Encourage yourself and your loved ones to obtain a hepatitis vaccination and get tested. Take charge of your health and don’t wait because hepatitis can’t wait!
Liver Foundation, 2020. 5 Things You Should Know About Hepatitis. American Liver Foundation. Available at: https://liverfoundation.org/5-things-you-should-know-about-hepatitis/.
Person, 2017. Hepatitis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment. Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis#complications.
CDC, 2017. ABCs of Viral Hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2017/11/viralhepatitis/.
NIDDK, 2017. What Is Viral Hepatitis? National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/viral-hepatitis/what-is-viral-hepatitis.
Anon, 2020. Viral Hepatitis. Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4245-hepatitis-viral-hepatitis-a-b–c.
WHO, 2021. Eastern Mediterranean Region. World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.emro.who.int/pak/programmes/prevention-a-control-of-hepatitis.html#:~:text=Viral%20hepatitis%20is%20the%20eighth,71%20million%20with%20hepatitis%20C.