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Hepatitis: types, symptoms and prevention

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Hepatitis is a highly prevalent health problem across the globe. In India alone, nearly 40 million people are affected by this condition. Despite its high incidence, there is insufficient awareness about the disease and its treatment. 

In this article, with insights from Dr Anukalp Prakash, a leading gastroenterologist in Gurgaon, we will discuss everything you need to know about hepatitis.

What is hepatitis? 

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. It is caused by a variety of reasons including infectious viruses, autoimmune diseases and side effects of certain medications and drugs. Hepatitis largely deteriorates the ability and function of the liver affecting a person’s quality of life.

Types of hepatitis 

There are five main types of hepatitis virus – Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. 

Hepatitis A – It is the most common type of viral hepatitis. Hepatitis A is an acute, contagious disease that spreads through the intake of contaminated food and water.  

Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B is spread through the transmission of bodily fluids such as semen and vaginal fluids. The safest way to avoid being affected with Hepatitis B is to practice safe sexual activity. 

Hepatitis C – This viral infection is found in the blood and bodily fluids like semen and vaginal fluids.

Hepatitis D – Hepatitis D is a more serious and rare type of infection. It is only present in patients who are already affected by Hepatitis B. 

Hepatitis E – Hepatitis E is caused as a result of poor sanitation and uncontaminated water supply. 

Other types of hepatitis include alcoholic and autoimmune hepatitis. 

Hepatitis symptoms  

Different strains of hepatitis have distinct symptoms. Most types have mild or no symptoms at all. It is, however, important to note and track the symptoms in the initial stages of the disease onset. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever 
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Pale stool
  • Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Signs of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

Your diagnosis protocol and treatment journey for a hepatitis infection depend upon the type of infection, the severity of symptoms and your overall health. Your gastroenterologist will examine your physical health as well as perform certain tests and procedures to diagnose the condition.  Hepatitis is treated through anti-viral medicines and adequate rest. Your healthcare provider will make a personalised care plan to meet your medical needs and alleviate your symptoms. 

Tips to prevent hepatitis 

Most types of viral hepatitis can be effectively prevented. Listed below are some approved tips to help avoid contracting this condition:

Vaccination – Vaccines are key aspects of preventing hepatitis. Presently, vaccination is available to prevent hepatitis A and B. 

Hygiene – Maintaining clean and good sanitation practices in your everyday routine can help prevent hepatitis. Avoid consuming uncooked and raw food items and drink purified boiled water. 

Safe sexual practice – Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted through unprotected intercourse. It is important to practice safe sex using barrier protection to avoid this disease as well as other STIs. 

Hepatitis A, B, C, D or E, if left untreated, can cause severe and fatal complications such as liver failure, liver cancer and cirrhosis. It is, thus, important to stay informed and aware of the early signs and preventive measures of viral hepatitis. 

For more information on hepatitis prevention and treatment, book an appointment with Dr Anukalp Prakash, Department of Gastroenterology at the CK Birla Hospital.

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