Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver from any cause.
Hepatitis commonly results from a virus, particularly one of the five hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D, or E. Less commonly, hepatitis results from other viral infections, such as yellow fever, Lassa fever etc. The major non-viral causes of hepatitis are excessive alcohol intake and use of certain drugs, such as isoniazid (used to treat tuberculosis). Hepatitis can be acute (short-lived) or chronic (lasting at least 6months).
It is common throughout the world.
Acute Viral Hepatitis
Acute viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by infection with one of the five hepatitis viruses; for most people, the inflammation begins suddenly and last only a few weeks.
Acute viral hepatitis can produce anything from minor illness to fatal liver failure. The severity of symptoms and speed of recovery vary depending on the particular virus and on the person’s response to the infection. Hepatitis A and C often produce very mild symptoms or none at all, and may go unnoticed, whereas B and E are more likely to produce severe symptoms. Co-infection of hepatitis B with hepatitis D may make the symptoms even more sever.
Symptoms of acute viral hepatitis usually begin suddenly. They include a poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, and often a fever. Occasionally, especially with hepatitis B infection, an affected person develops joint pains and itchy red rash on the skin (wheals). After a few days, the urine becomes dark and jaundice (a yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes) may develop.
Both of these symptoms occur because bilirubin (the main pigment in bile) builds up in the blood. Most symptoms typically disappear at this point, and the person feels better even though the jaundice gets worse.
Doctors suspect acute viral hepatitis on the basis of the person’s symptoms. On physical examination, a doctor finds the liver to be painful and somewhat enlarged. A result of liver function test indicates that the liver is inflamed and can help doctors distinguish hepatitis due to alcohol abuse from that due to a virus. Usually the specific virus causing the hepatitis or the specific antibodies produced by the body to fight it can be identified as well.
Vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis A and B infections.
As with most vaccines, however, protection requires allowing a number of weeks for the vaccine to reach its full effect as the person’s immune system gradually creates antibodies against the particular virus.
A number of other preventive measures against infection with the hepatitis viruses can be taken such as washing the hand thoroughly before handling food, refraining from high-risk behaviours such as sharing needles to inject illicit drugs and having unprotected sex, and avoiding blood transfusions except when absolutely essential.
Treatment and Prognosis
In most people, special treatment is not necessary, although people with unusually severe acute hepatitis may require hospitalization. After the first several days, appetite usually returns and the person does not need to stay in bed.
People with hepatitis should avoid alcohol until they fully recover. A doctor may need to discontinue or reduce the dosage of certain drugs that could build to harmful levels in the body. Thus the person should disclose to the doctor all drugs being taken (both prescribed and over-the-counter, including any herbal medicines) so that dosage adjustment can be made if necessary.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Royal Victoria Medical centre Helpline on +2349020925705, +2349020925707