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Home > Blog > Viral Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E: Tests, Treatment, Symptoms, Causes

Viral Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E: Tests, Treatment, Symptoms, Causes

Viral Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E: Tests, Treatment, Symptoms, Causes

Max Lab

Jan 23, 2024

Hepatitis is a medical condition that is commonly caused by a virus and results in inflammation of the liver. In most cases, it can be treated without any complications, but sometimes it may lead to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, or liver cancer. Other than a virus, hepatitis can also be caused by certain infections, autoimmune diseases, and toxic substances like alcohol, chemicals, drugs, etc. Depending on its course, a hepatitis infection can be either acute or chronic.

Types of Hepatitis

There are 5 main types of hepatitis infection, referred to as A, B, C, D, and E, based on the type of virus it is caused by. Types A and E are typically caused when a healthy individual consumes contaminated food or water. Types B, C, and D, on the other hand, are caused by parenteral contact with the body fluids of an infected person. Some of the most common modes of transmission for Hepatitis B, C, and D viruses are contaminated blood or blood products and sexual contact. Other than this, if a pregnant female has Hepatitis B, C, or D, she can pass it on to the child at the time of birth.

Although all five types of hepatitis can cause severe damage to the liver, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are most commonly known to be associated with chronic liver disease. In addition to this, these two are also among the most common causes of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Here’s a detailed explanation of all five types of hepatitis, their causes and symptoms, the tests required for diagnosis, and their treatment.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a food-borne illness that is known to be spread through contaminated water and food items. It is quite easy to transmit and mostly affects children. This infection doesn’t cause any serious damage to the liver and can be completely resolved within six months with timely treatment. However, the infection caused by HAV can be severe and life-threatening at times when combined with other medical conditions.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is primarily transmitted when a healthy individual is exposed to contaminated blood, infective semen, or other body fluids of an infected person. Other than this, it can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or from other family members in early childhood. This is a chronic condition that can cause several complications if not treated on time.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C can only be transmitted through blood or from an infected mother to her newborn child. Although sexual transmission is also possible, it is not very common. Like hepatitis B, it can also lead to serious medical conditions like liver cancer and cirrhosis in the long run.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is an infection that can only affect individuals who are already infected with hepatitis B. The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and lead to several complications.

Hepatitis E

There are certain medicines that are considered safe in general but can be toxic to the liver and cause hepatitis. Also known as drug-induced hepatitis, this is an infection that occurs as a result of an excessively high dosage of certain medicines. However, it can also be transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water or food.

Risk Factors

Here are a few common risk factors for viral hepatitis:

  • Poor sanitation practices
  • Lack of clean drinking water
  • Person-to-person contact
  • Travel to areas with hepatitis outbreaks

Symptoms

Here are a few common symptoms of a hepatitis infection:

Diagnosis

It is recommended to visit the doctor as soon as one experiences any of the above symptoms. Usually, the diagnosis starts with a physical exam, which may or may not indicate a swollen, enlarged liver. After that, a liver function test is suggested to check if the liver is working the way it should or not. If these test results show any values that are not within the normal range, a few blood tests are performed for further investigation. These tests help to detect the presence of any of the five viruses causing hepatitis.

When the test results come out inconclusive or the doctor suspects chronic viral hepatitis, he or she may also suggest a liver biopsy. This helps them determine the exact degree of liver damage.

Prevention

The best way to prevent viral hepatitis is to get proper vaccinations. It is recommended for children and people who are at high risk for this infection. There are effective vaccinations available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. But there are no such options for types C, D, and E. Some other prevention techniques include frequent hand washing with soap and water, avoiding consumption of outside food and untreated water, and following safe sex practices. All these things can help prevent the spread of viral hepatitis.

Treatment

Treatments for acute viral hepatitis and chronic viral hepatitis are very different. Acute hepatitis infection can usually be treated through supportive care. Symptoms can be easily relieved with enough rest, adequate nutrition, and fluid intake. On the other hand, chronic viral hepatitis is treated in a different way. Sometimes, the treatment may involve medication that not only eliminates the virus but also helps prevent further liver damage. However, the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C does not require any such medications. The reason behind that is quite simple. Individuals with these types of hepatitis do not develop progressive liver damage or liver cancer.

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