Hepatitis is a disease when a virus enters your body and causes swelling in the liver. Hepatitis can also be caused due to medicines, drugs, toxins and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.
Hepatitis is classified as A, B, C, D and E :
Hepatitis A - Hepatitis A is mostly caused by consuming contaminated food or water. A person who is infected with Hepatitis A Virus will get jaundice and will remain in an infective state for a long time. The Hepatitis A Virus remains in the stool of the infected person. When such a person is involved in the cooking or serving of food at restaurants then customers eating at such joints become victims of this virus.
Hepatitis B & C - Hepatitis B & C spread through exchange of bodily fluids like blood, semen and vaginal fluids. If a person has unprotected sex with an infected person then the chances of getting infected with this virus are quite big. Using unsterlized syringes in the hospital or for injecting drugs are also a big reason for the spread of this virus.
Hepatitis D & E - Hepatitis D spreads through transfusion of infected blood and grows in conjunction with Hepatitis B. Hepatitis E spreads through water contaminated with fecal matter. In India the spread of Hepatitis is quite large due to the mixing of water supply lines with the sanitation supply lines. Consumption of street food is also a big source for the spread of these viruses.
Symptoms - The symptoms of hepatitis are fatigue, flu, dark urine, pale stool, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, yellow skin and eyes etc. These symptoms may not become noticable in cases of chronic hepatitis. During physical examination, the doctor can find if there is any pain or tenderness in the abdominal area.
Diagnosis - Basic blood tests like CBC, Liver Function Test, Viral Markers like HbsAG, Anti HCV are sufficient to determine the presence of any of these viruses in the body. Ultrasound of the abdomen is done to see the shape, size and echotexture of the Liver and the presence of any kind of fluid in the abdomen. Ultrasound is one of the best and easily available diagnostic modality to see the evidence of any kind of damage to the liver due to hepatitis. Ultrasound or CT Guided Liver Biopsy can also be done to see the extent of fibrosis in the liver due to Hepatitis. Advanced diagnostic modalities like Ultrasound / CT / MRI Liver Elastography are excellent replacements for Liver Biopsy as they are all non-invasive tests and does not require any puncturing of the liver. Elastography is a new application which has been developed on Ultrasound, CT and MRI. This is the reason that many of the diagnostic centres in India would not have the facility of Liver Elastography. Many physicians are also not trained to use the results of Liver Elastography. It is therefore important to consult a Liver Specialist in cases of Hepatitis.
Treatment options are determined by which type of hepatitis you have and whether the infection is acute or chronic.
Hepatitis A - No specific treatment is required except soft diet is recommended. You may be advised bed rest if the symptoms are severe. In cases of vomitting and diarrhea the patient has to take care of hydration and nutrition. Vaccine is now available for Hepatitis A for both new born children as well as adults.
Hepatitis B - Acute hepatitis B doesn’t require specific treatment. Chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications. This form of treatment can be costly because it must be continued for several months or years. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B also requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring to determine if the virus is responding to treatment. Vaccine for Hepatits B is also available and should be taken by all the people.
Hepatitis C - Antiviral medications are used to treat both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C. People who develop chronic hepatitis C are typically treated with a combination of antiviral drug therapies. They may also need further testing to determine the best form of treatment. People who develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver disease as a result of chronic hepatitis C may be candidates for a liver transplant. There is no vaccine for Hepatits C at present. Hepatitis D and E have no specific treatments at present and are not very common.
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