Hepatitis - Description

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It regulates the amount of many chemicals that occur in the blood. It removes substances from the blood that are or may become toxic. A toxin is a poison. The liver changes these substances into less harmful forms. It then converts them into a form that will dissolve in water. In this form, the substances are eliminated from the body. If the liver is damaged, toxic substances may build up in the bloodstream. In the worst cases, these substances can cause serious illness and even death.

Most forms of hepatitis are caused by viruses. The viruses have names similar to those of the diseases they cause. Hepatitis A, for example, is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and so on.

Hepatitis A and B have been known for many years. At one time they were called infectious and serum hepatitis, respectively. When hepatitis C was first discovered, it was called non-A, non-B hepatitis. It is now known by its simpler name. Hepatitis D, E, and G were discovered during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute disorder. An acute disorder is one that comes on suddenly and usually does not last very long. An initial episode of hepatitis A is often followed by a relapse a few weeks later. A relapse is a reoccurrence of the disease. A few people have many relapses.

Children are more likely to contract (catch) hepatitis A than adults, but their symptoms are usually much milder than those of adults.

Among those at highest risk for hepatitis A are the following:

  • Children who go to day-care centers.
  • Troops living under crowded conditions at military camps or in the field.
  • Anyone living in heavily populated and unsanitary conditions.
  • Individuals who practice oral-anal sexual contact.
  • Tourists visiting an area where hepatitis A is common.
A disorder that comes on suddenly and usually does not last very long.
Chemicals produced by the immune system to destroy invading organisms.
Any particles or portion of an organism that can cause an immune response.
A person whose body contains the organisms that cause a disease but who does not show symptoms of that disease.
A disorder that develops gradually and may last for many years.
A liver disorder caused by scarring of liver tissue.
A disorder characterized by the body's inability to clot blood effectively.
Immune system:
A network of organs, tissues, cells, and chemicals designed to protect the body against foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
A yellowing of the skin, often caused by a disorder of the liver.
A reoccurrence of a disease.
A poison.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. By some estimates, more than 300 million people worldwide have the disease.

Hepatitis B occurs in both acute and chronic forms. The chronic form is one that develops slowly and remains in the body for a long time. The disease may range from mild to severe. Many people infected with HBV never develop any symptoms. They may not know they have the virus in their bodies, but they are still able to pass the virus on to other people. Such people are said to be carriers of the disease. About 1.5 million Americans are thought to be carriers of HBV.

In its most serious forms, hepatitis B can be a life-threatening disease. The virus causes severe scarring of the liver. The scarring process is called cirrhosis (pronounced suh-RO-suss) of the liver. Cirrhosis damages the liver so badly that it may no longer be able to function normally. It can cause the death of the patient. Cirrhosis can also lead to liver cancer (see cancer entry).

There are three major ways in which hepatitis B can be transmitted. They are:

  • During birth, when a mother with hepatitis B passes HBV to her infant.
  • Coming into contact with infected blood, as happens when a health worker is stuck with a needle containing infected blood.
  • Through sexual contact, especially when such contact results in a tearing of body tissue.

Two other forms of hepatitis are alcoholic hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis. Both of these disorders result in damage to the liver. They have symptoms similar to those of hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, and G, but they have different causes.

Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by an excessive consumption of alcohol over a period of time. Alcohol is largely broken down in the liver. The more alcohol a person drinks, the harder the liver has to work. In some cases, the liver can be damaged by processing too much alcohol. The cure for alcoholic hepatitis is simple: the patient must stop drinking. When the liver has less alcohol to deal with, it may return to its normal condition.

Some alcoholics find it difficult to give up drinking. In such cases, they can cause severe damage to their livers. They may develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. These diseases are major causes of death among alcoholics.

Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body's immune system becomes confused. It begins to attack the cells in its own body the way it attacks foreign invaders. Antibodies released by the immune system may attack the liver and cause inflammation.

Autoimmune hepatitis can be acute or chronic. Unfortunately, there is no way to cure the disease. Some people eventually recover from the condition, while others become so ill that they die.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C was first identified in 1974. The virus that causes the disease was not found until 1989. The infection is sometimes called "transfusion hepatitis." The name comes from one possible cause of the disease. It may be transmitted along with blood used in blood transfusions. Since the identification of HCV, tests have been developed to identify the virus. Blood transfusions are no longer a major cause of the disease.

Other ways in which the virus can be transmitted include:

  • Through a break in the skin or the inner lining of the mouth or genitals
  • From an infected mother to her child
  • As a result of sexual intercourse

Hepatitis C can occur in either acute or chronic forms. In its acute form, it is quite mild, but in its chronic form it can be even more dangerous than hepatitis B.

Among those at highest risk for hepatitis C are:

  • Health care workers who may come into contact with infected blood
  • Intravenous drug users (people who inject drugs directly into their veins)
  • Individuals who have their skin pierced with a dirty needle while getting tattooed or pierced
  • Hemophiliacs, people with a genetic blood disorder known as hemophilia (see hemophilia entry)
  • Kidney dialysis patients who spend time on machines that cleanse their blood for them

Hepatitis D, E, and G are relatively less common. They may occur in conjunction with one of the other forms of hepatitis or on their own.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Jun 26, 2021 @ 3:03 am
I was diagnosed as HEPATITIS B carrier in 2013 with fibrosis of the
liver already present. I started on antiviral medications which
reduced the viral load initially. After a couple of years the virus
became resistant. I started on HEPATITIS B Herbal treatment from
ULTIMATE LIFE CLINIC (ultimatelifeclinic.com) in March, 2020. Their
treatment totally reversed the virus. I did another blood test after
the 6 months long treatment and tested negative to the virus. Amazing
treatment! This treatment is a breakthrough for all HBV carriers.

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