Dr Aswini Bezbaruah, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Excelcare Hospitals, Boragaon, Guwahati
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. One of the most common liver diseases is viral hepatitis. Almost all acute viral hepatitis cases are caused by Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis E and Hepatitis D viruses. A few numbers of acute viral hepatitis are caused by other viruses.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E viruses enter our body by ingestion of contaminated water, food, etc. On the other hand, infections by Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis D viruses occur due to transfusions of contaminated blood and blood products, use of contaminated syringes, through any body fluid of an infected person, from infected pregnant lady to her baby by birth.
Symptoms of acute viral hepatitis develop after two weeks to one-and-a-half to two months in Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E infections. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis D infection symptoms occur after two to six months.
Common symptoms of acute viral hepatitis are same in all – fever, headache, body ache, nausea and vomiting, generalised weakness, loss of appetite, yellowish discolouration of urine, sclera, clay coloured stool, pain in the abdomen, etc.
In all acute viral hepatitis cases, the treatment is the same. Low calorie and easily digestible diet, avoidance of physical exertion, avoidance of drugs/herbal medication might improve normal liver functions. Patients can take normal diet except high-fat diet or excessive meat to prevent vomiting and constipation. In severe anorexia, vomiting and generalised weakness, one may require hospitalisation.
In a previously healthy person, almost all acute viral hepatitis is caused by Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E. Most of the patients with Hepatitis C and a very few numbers of patients with acute viral hepatitis B develop chronic hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis may turn into fibrosis of liver, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in the long run.
As preventive measures against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E, we should avoid contaminated water and food, and try to maintain personal hygiene. To prevent Hepatitis B, C and D, we must avoid the use of contaminated syringes, blood and blood products, unprotected physical contact with infected persons, shaving in a saloon in unhygienic conditions, etc.
Vaccination is one of the most important measures to fight Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B infections.
All children should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B along with other vaccinations. Patients with chronic kidney diseases requiring dialysis, repeated blood transfusion, etc., may benefit from Hepatitis B vaccination.