Hepatitis (A, B, C)
What are Hepatitis A, B, C?
Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation which can be caused by viral infections, chemicals, drug abuse, some medications and immune disorders. There are various forms of viral hepatitis including hepatitis A, B and C.
Acute hepatitis are usually associated with symptoms but most chronic hepatitis patients are asymptomatic, meaning they may show little or no symptoms. However, general symptoms of hepatitis may include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Dark urine
- Decreased appetite
- Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes)
- Nausea and giddiness
- Painful joints
- Pale coloured stools
Chronic hepatitis can lead to:
- Liver Cancer
- Liver Cirrhosis
- Liver Failure
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A virus infection causes acute inflammation of the liver.
Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through:
- Blood contact, drug use and sexual contact with infected persons
- Consumption of shellfish from water contaminated by sewage
- Direct contact with food, drinks or objects contaminated by the stool of an infected individual
- The “faecal-oral” route in which infected faecal particles from a person or animal are consumed by another person. This phenomenon is more common in areas with poor hygiene and overcrowding
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, but some measures can help to improve the condition:
- Abstain from alcohol
- Take plenty of bed rest
- Increase fluid intake
- Practise good personal hygiene to prevent faecal-oral transmission
- Take prescribed medication if symptoms worsen
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is the most common cause of liver infection. Most infected individuals can recover from acute hepatitis B infection and become immune to it. However, some people may develop a long-term hepatitis B infection, which leads to serious complications including chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted through:
- Infected, expectant mothers to their newborns
- Activities that involve contaminated blood entering the bloodstream of a susceptible individual
- Sharing contaminated injections among drug users
- Unsafe sexual contact with an infected person
Treatment of hepatitis B, depending on the symptoms and stage of the disease, includes:
- Anti-viral medication to stop virus replication
- Medication to relieve symptoms
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C infection contributes to the development of chronic liver disease worldwide. The virus cannot be eliminated in most infected people and consequently causes ongoing damage to the liver over a long period of time. Similar to hepatitis B, hepatitis C can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Hepatitis C virus is mainly found in the blood and is transmitted when the blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of a person. This can happen in situations such as transfusion of blood products or sharing contaminated needles.
The treatment of hepatitis C is aimed at eradication of the virus. It includes:
- Direct acting anti-viral medication to stop the virus replication
- Regular screening for liver cancer on hepatitis C carriers, especially those who have liver cirrhosis