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Worldwide, 300 million people are not aware that they are living with viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is one of the biggest global threats of our time. It causes 134 million deaths annually. And causes two in every three liver cancer deaths. Without finding the undiagnosed reason and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost. An inflammatory condition of the liver, hepatitis is commonly caused by a viral infection – however  that doesn’t eliminate other possible causes of hepatitis…including autoimmune hepatitis, a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your own liver tissue.

So, where is the liver and what does it do?

The liver is located in the right upper area of the abdomen and it performs many crucial  functions that affect metabolism throughout the human body, including bile production - essential for efficient digestion; as a filtration system for toxins; it excretes bilirubin, a by-product of broken-down red blood cells,  cholesterol, hormones, and drugs; breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; activating enzymes - specialized proteins essential for various bodily functions; storing glycogen, minerals, and vitamins (A, D, E, and K); and synthesising blood proteins and clotting factors.

Common types of hepatitis

Hepatitis A: Caused by an infection of the hepatitis A virus (HAV), it’s commonly transmitted by the consumption of food or water contaminated by faeces from people infected with the hepatitis A virus.

Hepatitis B: Transmitted via contact with infectious body fluids, including blood, vaginal secretions or semen, containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Contaminated syringes, sex with infected partners, or sharing razors with an infected person – all increase the risk of getting hepatitis B. 

Hepatitis C: Caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), this type of hepatitis is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids, generally through injection drug use and sexual contact.

Hepatitis D: Caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV), this type is also known as Delta hepatitis. A rare form of hepatitis, this only occurs in conjunction with the hepatitis B infection because the hepatitis D virus can’t multiply without hepatitis B also being present. 

Hepatitis E: A waterborne disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), this form of the hepatitis virus is mostly found in areas with poor sanitation and is a result of ingesting faecal matter that has contaminated the water supply. Cases of hepatitis E have been reported in the Middle East, Asia, Central America and Africa.

Treatment options 

Hepatitis A: This type usually doesn’t require treatment as it’s a short-term illness. Bed rest is generally recommended.  Following the doctor’s orders, for hydration and nutrition in cases of vomiting and loose motions, is essential.

Hepatitis B: Acute hepatitis B doesn’t require specific treatment. Chronic hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring. This type of hepatitis B can be prevented with vaccinations.

Hepatitis C: For acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C, antiviral medications are used as treatment. People who develop chronic hepatitis C are generally  treated with a combination of antiviral drug therapies. 

Hepatitis D: There is no antiviral medications for the treatment of hepatitis D at present.  Hepatitis D can be prevented by getting vaccinated for hepatitis B, as being infected with hepatitis B is essential for hepatitis D to develop.

Hepatitis E: At present, there is no specific medical therapy available to treat hepatitis E. People with this type of infection are normally advised to get adequate rest, stay well hydrated, get enough nutrients, and avoid alcohol. 

Autoimmune hepatitis: For the early treatment of autoimmune hepatitis, corticosteroids, like prednisone or budesonide, are vital. They work for about 80 percent of people with this condition.

BY Thiyagarajan Velayutham | 26th July 2019

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