Viral Hepatitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
Majority of people associates viral hepatitis with contaminated food and water and illegal drug addiction. While these are possible sources of viral hepatitis, you also can get two types through unsafe sex. In this regard, viral hepatitis functions as a sexually transmitted disease. The two forms of viral hepatitis that can occur due to unprotected sex are Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. The former turns chronic, while the latter can be extremely dangerous.
Symptoms of Viral Hepatitis
The liver is an important organ. Besides helping to eliminate wastes and toxins from the body, the liver also contributes to many other metabolic and biochemical processes in the body. Hence, if the liver is affected, the entire body is adversely affected. That is exactly what happens when you are afflicted with viral hepatitis.
Some of the symptoms of viral hepatitis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever and muscle aches
- Dark-coloured urine
- Pain in the abdomen
- Weight loss for no reason
- Jaundice of the eyes and skin
It is important to note if you have chronic viral hepatitis, namely Hepatitis B, you may not display symptoms of the infection or the symptoms may be too subtle for you to notice them.
Causes of Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis B spreads to unsafe sexual practices. This is caused by a virus. This form of viral hepatitis also can spread due to sharing of needles and blood transfusion. The virus can be transmitted from the mother to the child during childbirth.
Typically, most people, who get viral Hepatitis B tend to get better with appropriate treatment. However, there are some who do not get better and it is these people, who turn into carriers of the disease. Carriers can transmit the disease, whether they have symptoms or not, as is also true for those who develop chronic Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis D only afflicts those individuals, who already have Hepatitis B. As a result, the condition of these people is more severe, as there are two viruses acting at the same time. Hepatitis D spreads through sex and also can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child at childbirth.
Diagnosing Viral Hepatitis
There are many different ways to diagnose viral hepatitis. One of the first methods is conducting a physical examination and palpating the abdomen. This allows the doctor to see if the liver is enlarged or the person experiences pain or tenderness. The physical exam allows the doctor to check your skin and eyes for yellowness.
Liver Biopsy: This minimally invasive test allows a liver sample to be analysed in the laboratory for infection.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the abdomen is done to see if the liver is enlarged or damaged.
Liver Function Tests: This makes use of blood samples to see if the liver is working properly. If there is high presence of enzymes, it is an indication that the liver is damaged or stressed.
Blood Test: This detects presence of antibodies and antigen in the blood. The type of antibodies and antigen let the doctor determine the virus causing the viral hepatitis.
Treating Viral Hepatitis
The treatment method used is based on whether the person has chronic or acute viral hepatitis. If the person has acute Hepatitis B, usually no specific treatment is needed. However, if it is chronic, the person is put on antiviral medications. This treatment is expensive and can last for several months, sometimes even years. Chronic Hepatitis B requires constant monitoring. According to the CDC, infants should be vaccinated against it at birth.
Hepatitis D is treated with alpha interferon, which is a type of antiviral. However, in most people this form of viral hepatitis tends to return even after it is treated successfully.
If you want to protect yourself from viral hepatitis, make sure you do not indulge in unprotected sex or have multiple sex partners. Always use a condom during sexual intercourse. Also, do not share needles if you have a drug habit.