Viral hepatitis


Viral hepatitis

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the Liver caused by a virus. Several different viruses, named the hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses, cause viral hepatitis. All of these viruses cause acute, or short-term, viral hepatitis. The hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can also cause chronic hepatitis, in which the infection is prolonged, sometimes Lifelong. Chronic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

Viral hepatitis

All these human hepatitis viruses are RNA viruses, except for hepatitis B, which is a DNA virus. Although these agents can be distinguished by their molecular and antigenic properties, all types of viral hepatitis produce clinically similar illnesses. These range from asymptomatic and in-apparent to fulminant and fatal acute infections common to all types, on the one hand, and from sub-clinical persistent infections to rapidly progressive chronic liver disease with cirrhosis and even hepatocellular carcinoma, common to the bloodborne types (HBV, HCV, and HDV), on the other.

Researchers are looking for other viruses that may cause hepatitis, but none have been identified with certainty. Other viruses that less often affect the liver include Cytomegalovirus (CMV); Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), also called infectious mononucleosis; herpesvirus; parvovirus; and adenovirus.

Depending on the type of virus, viral hepatitis is spread through contaminated food or water, contact with infected blood, sexual contact with an infected person, or from mother-to-child during Childbirth.

The prognosis of viral hepatitis varies, depending on the causative virus.

Symptoms:

Symptoms include:

    Jaundice, which causes a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

  • Fatigue.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Low-grade fever.

  • Headache.

Diagnosis:

The serodiagnosis of hepatitis A, B, and D is well established; the serodiagnosis of hepatitis C and E continues to evolve as serologic and virologic assays become refined.

To diagnose hepatitis B the blood needs to be checked for the HB surface antigen (HBsAg). The HBs antigen is a part of the virus and will usually appear in your blood six to twelve weeks after infection. If the test is positive, you have hepatitis B. In that case, your doctor should conduct further tests to check if your hepatitis B infection is new or old, if it is harming your body or not, and if you need treatment or not. If you have naturally cleared the virus, or if you have been vaccinated against hepatitis B, you will have antibodies to hepatitis B (anti-HBs). Your body made these to destroy the virus. It is good to have anti-HBs, because that means you are protected against future infection by the hepatitis B virus.

For hepatitis C, your doctor will first check for HCV antibodies (anti-HCV). If the test is positive, this means you either have the virus now, or have had the virus and cleared it. Hepatitis C antibodies usually take seven to nine weeks to appear in your blood after infection. If your immune system is weakened (e.g. by HIV) your body may take longer to produce HCV antibodies, or it may not produce any at all. If the first test is positive, your doctor will then test for the virus itself (HCV RNA). If this is positive, you have hepatitis C.

Treatment:

Medical therapy of resulting chronic liver disease currently consists of interferon, though other anti-viral strategies are being explored. Advanced chronic liver disease due to hepatitis B, C, or D can be treated by orthotopic liver transplantation, but viral recurrence is near uniform and can be problematic. Further study of the hepatotropic viruses at the molecular biologic, epidemiologic, and clinical levels will continue to provide greater insight into the diagnosis and management of their associated clinical syndromes.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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