What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver. The word Hepatitis is made up of Hepar that means ‘Liver’ in Ancient Greek and Itis that means ‘Inflammation’. Hepatitis means injury to the liver with an inflammation of the liver cells.
How is it Caused?
Hepatitis is caused by the viral infection but may also be caused by other factors – when the body starts making antibodies against the liver tissues, drugs, alcohol, medications and harmful toxins. The disease can be self-limiting but a more serious form can lead to the fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Types of Hepatitis
The viral infection of liver is classified into five main categories of Hepatitis – A, B, C, D and E viruses. Though all the five types of hepatitis are a concern and claims many lives every year, but Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C lead to chronic problems in people and together, they are the main virus that cause liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis A (HAV)
Hepatitis A is caused by HAV virus(Hepatitis A virus). It is generally caused by eating infected food or water. It is contagious and can also spread through anal-oral sex. Hepatitis A vaccines are available and can be administered to a person above one year of age. Hygienic food and surroundings are the key to prevent the spread of this disease. A person affected with it recovers on its own and the individual thus, remains immune to the virus for the rest of his life.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
Hepatitis B or HBV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It spreads via unprotected sex, using an infected syringe, sharing razor, toothbrush with an infected person. The disease can also pass from an infected mom to her new born. The perforation of skin with unsterilised needles at hospitals, tatoo parlours or being accidently pricked by stepping on an injected needle etc. spreads Hepatitis B.
In Hepatitis B, liver of an individual swells. The serious damage to the liver degenerates the health of liver over the time and infection results in liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure. Vaccines for Hepatitis B are available and with proper immunisation the diseases can be completely prevented. Donated blood should always be tested for Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis is caused by the virus HCV (Hepatitis C Virus). It is transmitted via direct contact with the contaminated blood and the most potent ways of its transmission are contaminated and syringes. In hepatitis C, the liver swells and gets damaged. Liver Cancer in Hepatitis C is unlikely, however chances of liver cancer increases with the development of cirrhosis. But there is no vaccine available yet for Hepatitis C, so precaution is the only key.
Hepatitis D (HDV)
Only people affected with Hepatitis B can get affected by Hepatitis D (HDV). Together, both the infections deteriorate an individual’s liver and results in more serious condition of the disease. An individual who is vaccinated for Hepatitis B are automatically protected against Hepatitis D.
The modes of transmission of this virus are unprotected sex, perforation of skin via infected syringes and contact with the contaminated blood.
Hepatitis E (HEV)
Hepatitis E is a disease that affects a person on consumption of water containing Hepatitis E virus (HEV). Since the main reason of its spread is contaminated water, it is mainly found in the areas where sanitation is poor and fecal matter gets dissolved in drinking water. It is commonly found in India, in areas where sanitation is dismal. Vaccines for Hepatitis E are not available yet.
Tips for its Prevention
Vaccination is the first step to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A and B. Practicing good hygiene is the most important tip to avoid catching hepatitis. While traveling, pay special attention to the hygiene level of the food and water. Make sure to drink quality packaged water to avoid consuming any possible water borne Hepatitis. To prevent the spread of virus that spreads via blood, do not share drug needles, razors, toothbrush and any form of contact with the spilled blood. While getting a tattoo, make sure that the equipment used in the process is well sterilized. Consume alcohol in moderation or abstain from it to avoid alcoholic hepatitis.
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