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Preventing Hepatitis

Preventing Hepatitis

What are the common types of hepatitis?

Common types of hepatitis include viral hepatitis, drug-induced hepatitis, alcohol-related hepatitis, and fatty liver.

What’s the difference between Hepatitis A, B and C?

Hepatitis A commonly induces acute and short-term liver inflammation, which is hepatitis. It is transmitted from the oral route, i.e. food. Hepatitis B and C can cause acute hepatitis, and in a portion of the patient – it remains in the patient’s body- turning into the chronic form. In these patients, they may cause slow but long-term damage leading to scarring and liver hardening. Hepatitis B and C transmit through blood contact.

What causes hepatitis?

Hepatitis means liver inflammation and injury. Depending on the type – the causes are different. In viral hepatitis, Hepatitis A, B, and C are the common cause. In drug-induced hepatitis, it is caused by a related drug that is not compatible with the patient. Excessive alcohol use can lead to alcoholic hepatitis.

What are the complications of hepatitis?

In acute and short-term hepatitis, it may lead to liver failure if the insult is severe.

In chronic and long-term hepatitis, it may lead to scarring of the liver and hardening of the liver. With that condition, these patients are prone to vomiting blood (variceal bleeding), water in the peritoneum (ascites), infection, toxicity in the brain (hepatic encephalopathy and also liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)

Who are at risk?

For hepatitis A and B, those who are not vaccinated against the virus are at risk. For blood-borne virus, the virus can be transmitted through needle-sharing while using recreational drugs, unprotected sexual contact, and the baby might get the virus from the mother during birth. Excessive use of alcohol can cause hepatitis and being overweight and taking lots of simple sugar can lead to fatty liver.

Can you share hepatitis prevention measures? Please elaborate on each point.

The prevention measures are exhaustive. These are a few common pieces of advice for the prevention of diseases. Vaccination for Hepatitis A and B effectively prevents transmission of the virus.

We now have medication to prevent the transmission of Hepatitis B from the mother to the baby during pregnancy and delivery. Protected sex prevents blood-borne hepatitis virus. Drinking in modesty prevents alcoholic hepatitis

Weight control and avoiding obesity are effective ways in preventing fatty liver.

How is hepatitis treated?

Again, this depends on the causes of hepatitis. For hepatitis A, there are no treatments, and the patient’s own immune system is expected to cope with this virus during the infection. Commonly it can cause a short-term symptomatic illness but will recover by itself. In a small number of patients, they progress to liver failure and death without aggressive treatment such as a transplant. For Hepatitis B, the physician needs to assess the patient to determine which state of the disease is the patient in. In particular, we have very good medication to suppress the virus activity but a long-term cure is difficult. For hepatitis C, we have near to 100% effective treatment for it and it involves well-tolerated oral pills for 3-6 months. Due to this, World Health Organization is looking at the eradication of this virus by 2030. To date, there are no effective treatments for alcohol hepatitis except for stopping alcohol use. For fatty liver, there are many medications being developed. But the most important measure is still weight control.

Article by Dr. Gew Lai Teck, Consultant Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist.