We often hear of people having Hepatitis.
We get warnings about the disease. We are asked to get vaccinated against some of its strains.
But do we really know what Hepatitis connotes?
How do we know Hepatitis? Is Hepatitis curable?
Let us go on with this article, to learn more about this damaging disease of one of the greatest organs of the body.
What do you know Hepatitis to mean?
Hepatitis is defined as an inflammatory disease of the liver. Inflammation of any organ occurs when an inciting organism or material attacks the organ with intent to reduce its function, contaminate it, or destroy it.
When inflammation occurs, the body asks for help from the immune system by releasing certain chemicals to signal distress.
The immune system works on the inflamed organ by attacking the culprits and trying to bring things back to order.
At this time, the inflamed organ is incapacitated, giving inflammatory symptoms too, like swelling, inability to function, redness, and pain.
If this continues for a long time, the organ may never regain normalcy again.
The liver is one of the largest and most hardworking organs in the body. With the variety of works the liver takes on, it should be an organ to be ‘pampered’. Harmful organisms should not be allowed near it, because when the liver is destroyed, the whole body will not survive it.
The scary thing about the liver is that it does not show physical signs of distress in time, until it is almost too late.
That is why it is important for you to take care of the liver as much as you can.
The liver is the home of many bodily functions. These functions include:
- The liver detoxifies the body of toxins,chemicals,irritants and drugs
- The liver also stores nutrients taken into the body and releases them when they are needed
- This powerful organ converts food into energy that is utilized by the body
- It produces bile, that digests fat in our food
- The liver converts ammonia to urea which is excreted via the urine
- The liver also helps to excrete waste materials from broken red blood cells known as Bilirubin.
Now that we understand how important the liver is to the body, let us learn more about Hepatitis, an enemy to the welfare of the liver.
Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis has different types, depending on the organism that causes them, the route of transmission and the severity of infection.
The types of Hepatitis are:
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus referred to as Hepatitis A virus. People who get infected with this virus acquire it when they eat contaminated foods and drinks. These foods and drinks would have been contaminated by faecal matter containing the virus. This mostly happen in underdeveloped and developing societies.
This strain of Hepatitis is caused by the Hepatitis B virus HBV. It is transmitted mostly through bodily fluids like blood, semen and vaginal fluids.
Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through use of infected needles for tattoos or drugs.
Some people who have hepatitis B continue to be carriers of this virus for life. Hepatitis B is very infectious, but it can be prevented by taking the vaccines, practising safe sex and avoiding the use of shared needles.
This type of Hepatitis is caused by the Hepatitis C virus HCV. It is also spread through exposure to infected blood, sharing infected needles and through infected transfused blood.
Many people with the Hepatitis C virus do not show symptoms for a long time, hence, they are unaware of their infection until things get worse. That is why it is important to go for screening for the virus, whether you have symptoms or not.
Another strain caused by the Hepatitis D virus HDV. It occurs in people who already have the Hepatitis B virus. It is also contacted through bodily fluids, infected blood and anal sex.
Hepatitis D virus can be prevented by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine.
This is caused by the Hepatitis E virus HEV. It is gotten through ingestion of water contaminated with infected faeces.
Alcoholic Hepatitis is caused by indulging in too much alcohol consumption.
This is the type of Hepatitis that manifests when the body’s immune system itself attacks the liver, gradually leading it to liver failure. This can be treated with medications that suppress the body’s immune system.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
In most people, Symptoms of Hepatitis do not show quickly. By the time the symptoms manifest, the liver is already heading towards destruction.
Some of Hepatitis symptoms include:
- Jaundice: This is yellowish pigmentation of the eyes and skin
- Abdominal pain
- Hepatomegaly: enlarged liver
- Joint pains
- Dark urine
- Increased body temperature
What are the complications of Hepatitis?
When hepatitis is left unmanaged and untreated, it proceeds to:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Liver failure
- Cancer of the Liver
- Damage to the kidneys
- Hepatic encephalopathy, which is inflammation of the brain caused by hepatitis
- Portal hypertension
Prevention of Hepatitis
It is important to be aware of ways we can prevent ourselves from getting infected with Hepatitis. Some of these ways include:
- Practise safe sex with the use of condoms
- Make sure you receive a well screened blood for transfusion
- Do not eat or drink indiscriminately, especially in dirty, unhygienic places
- Do not share needles or sharp objects with other people
- Go for routine tests to know your hepatitis status
- Get your Hepatitis vaccines to prevent getting infected
- Wash your hands very well after any potential exposure to blood or other body fluids
- Do not engage in excessive consumption of alcohol
- If you suspect that you have been exposed to hepatitis, see your healthcare provider for advice and treatment.
Hepatitis is a serious health condition, and it should not be taken lightly. You must endeavour to protect yourself against the infection. If you have hepatitis, adhere to your physician’s guidelines and do not take it with levity. The Liver is a super organ of the body. Do well to protect it always.
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