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World Hepatitis Day: What are the symptoms?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most caused by viral infection. Your liver is vital to the body’s metabolic functions and immune system. It regulates chemical levels in the blood and removes toxins from the body as well as excretes bile, hepatitis affects these functions. 9 in 10 people living with hepatitis are unaware of their diagnosis. Hepatitis awareness day spreads the message about the importance of being tested for hepatitis, seeking treatment and vaccination against the infection. By doing so, viral hepatitis can be eliminated as a public threat as soon as 2030. Over 350 million live with viral hepatitis. Let’s look at the different types of hepatitis.

There are five main types of hepatitis, they are types A, B, C, D and E.

Hepatitis A can be vaccinated against, and most people can make a full recovery from it. This virus is commonly spread when an uninfected and unvaccinated person eats food or drinks water that is contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. The disease is closely associated with contaminated food and water, poor sanitation and personal hygiene, and oral and anal sex. This type of disease is common in areas with poor sanitation.

Hepatitis B however is more severe and is a potentially life-threatening infection. It is a chronic infection and can put people at risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. Vaccination against type B allows for 98% protection. Hepatitis B is commonly spread from a mother to child at birth but can also be spread from tattooing and piercing needles exposed to infected blood and fluids as well as shared needles used to inject drugs. Symptoms include yellowing of the eyes and skin – jaundice (the build-up of bilirubin) as well as abdominal pain. More severe symptoms include acute liver failure and diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Hepatitis C can cause both acute and chronic infection and it is a bloodborne infection.

Hepatitis D can only occur in the presence of hepatitis B, it is a co-infection. This combination is the most severe form of chronic viral hepatitis due to the more rapid progression towards liver cancer and liver-related death.

Hepatitis E is spread through contaminated water. This infection is limiting and resolves within 2-6 weeks.

Non-viral types of hepatitis include alcoholic hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis.

Alcoholic hepatitis is when the liver becomes inflamed due to excessive alcohol consumption. The inflammation of the liver can result in chronic scarring, preventing the liver from functioning properly and preventing toxins from being removed from the body. Those suffering from this type of hepatitis must stop drinking immediately to try and prevent further damage from occurring.

Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the liver when the body’s immune system attacks the liver cells, this causes scarring of the liver and leads to liver failure.

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