Generally speaking, hepatitis is inflammation of the liver ( hepatitis ) caused by disruption or damage to liver cells. This impairment of the liver by hepatitis pathogens is notifiable. More specifically, hepatitis is divided into hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E.
What is hepatitis?
According to AbbreviationFinder, hepatitis is a form of liver disease. The liver is considered the largest of the organs in the human body and is one of the most important organs when it comes to detoxifying food, pollutants and other waste products. When the liver is inflamed, the disease is called hepatitis.
The origin of the term hepatitis comes from the Greek and consists of the compound partial terms hépan = liver and the word itis = inflammation. Hepatitis can damage liver cells, disrupting the liver’s primary function of filtering toxins.
A hepatitis disease can be traced back to several factors. For example, viruses, bacteria or also various types of parasites can be decisive for hepatitis. Various diseases such as sarcoid or autoimmune diseases can also lead to hepatitis. Another sub-factor that can lead to hebatitis is the excessive consumption of alcohol or medication.
Various chemicals can also lead to the outbreak of the disease. As a rule, most hepatitis diseases are triggered by different types of viruses. A distinction is made between five different types of viruses. These five virus types are common to most people suffering from hepatitis. A distinction is made between the hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV) and the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hence the different forms of hepatitis.
In medicine, a distinction is therefore made between hepatitis A, B, C, D or E. Another virus that belongs to the same virus group is the hepatitis G virus, which is not recognized as an independent viral disease, but rather than a side virus. Depending on which liver inflammation is present, different symptoms can occur.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Hepatitis can present itself with a wide variety of symptoms. In some patients, liver inflammation takes a severe course. Others, on the other hand, do not experience any symptoms and the disease is diagnosed incidentally. Various symptoms can occur in the individual phases of acute hepatitis.
Symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and fever appear in the early phase. There is also upper abdominal pain and joint or muscle pain. Patients usually complain of an altered or weakened sense of smell and taste. In the jaundice phase, which occurs after two to eight weeks, the typical yellowing of the skin or the eyeball occurs.
In this phase, the stool is almost colorless and the patient feels increasing itching in different parts of the body. In the recovery phase, symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and exhaustion appear. The recovery phase can last several weeks to months. Chronic hepatitis causes fatigue, loss of appetite and reduced performance.
Typical physical symptoms are pressure pain under the right costal arch, joint pain and diarrhea. In men, testicular atrophy and enlargement of the mammary glands can occur. Menstrual cramps are common in women. In the chronic form, the symptoms occur in episodes.
As a rule, hepatitis always begins with somewhat harmless general symptoms. Symptoms such as tiredness or nausea often appear in the affected person. Characteristic symptoms can also appear later. Discolouration of the skin or discolouration within the eye (eg yellow) are typical of hepatitis.
In the case of hepatitis, a distinction is made not only between the individual virus types, but also between the reasons for transmission. For example, smear infections are responsible for hepatitis A and hepatitis E. These usually occur when pathogens are excreted and later get back into the body.
The course of the disease usually subsides after a few weeks or months. In the case of chronic hepatitis, the disease often only subsides after six months. Hepatitis is always positive in most cases, but if you have hepatitis, you have to report it because hepatitis falls under the Infection Protection Act.
Hepatitis can take different courses. Depending on the type of hepatitis, spontaneous healing, but also chronic courses can take place. Hepatitis A and hepatitis E both tend to heal spontaneously without any sequelae, while hepatitis B or especially hepatitis C can become chronic. A chronic course leads to a severe impairment of the quality of life of those affected.
This can lead to depression and develop a certain addictive behavior, which can worsen the hepatitis. In the worst cases, cirrhosis of the liver develops. In this case, the liver is remodeled in a knot-like manner, and the affected person usually complains of pain in the upper abdomen.
But edema and coagulation disorders are also observed, since the liver is no longer able to synthesize the required proteins. The spleen is also usually enlarged at the same time due to cirrhosis of the liver, since the blood is diverted there from the liver. This causes additional pain. There are other bypass circuits in the veins in the stomach and esophagus.
Varicose veins develop there, which can burst and lead to internal bleeding. Hemorrhoids also develop in the area of the rectum due to the diversion. In addition, the liver lacks detoxification of ammonia, which can accumulate in the blood and lead to encephalopathy.
When should you go to the doctor?
If symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, tiredness or exhaustion are noticed, a hepatitis infection may be present. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms persist for more than a week or increase in intensity over a short period of time.
If other symptoms appear, medical advice is also required. Liver problems such as a changed urine or stool color as well as signs of blood poisoning must be clarified immediately. If the fever rises above 41.3 degrees Celsius, an ambulance must be called.
The same applies to serious cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack or a circulatory collapse. Hepatitis infection always requires medical diagnosis and treatment. That’s why you should go to the family doctor at the first suspicion.
This applies in particular if the complaints can be traced back to a specific cause. If the symptoms mentioned occur, for example after unprotected sex or contact with a person who may be infected, a doctor must be consulted immediately. In case of doubt, the medical emergency service can be contacted first.
Treatment & Therapy
Treatment for hepatitis varies and depends greatly on the type of virus. In the case of hepatitis A, hepatitis D and hepatitis E, the main aim is to combat the symptoms, since there is no effective drug against the various types of virus.
As a rule, these types should be eaten on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. In the case of hepatitis B, on the other hand, interferon alpha therapy is used in most cases, which is intended to prevent a chronic course. Treatment of hepatitis G, on the other hand, is not absolutely necessary, since in most cases it disappears again without any effects.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of hepatitis depends on the type of disease and the use of medical care. Without treatment, the virus usually continues to spread unhindered. The disease can become chronic and the risk of premature death is significantly increased.
Patients with hepatitis A have a good chance of recovery. With sufficient rest and drug treatment, the patient is released from treatment within a week as cured. Consequences are not to be expected. In addition, the affected person becomes immune to the virus for life.
In the case of hepatitis B disease, there are basically also good prospects of recovery. However, it can also lead to a chronic course of the disease. The patient is at risk of late effects. Liver cirrhosis or liver cancer is a life-threatening condition. Organ failure can result in death.
Hepatitis C can be cured if treated early. The sooner the patient seeks medical care, the better the prognosis. Hepatitis is responsible for liver cancer in over 50% of cases. If the person affected consumes alcohol or leads an unhealthy lifestyle, the chances of a cure decrease immensely.
Anyone who wants to prevent the recurrence of hepatitis should be vaccinated. Effective protection can be built up against forms A and B. Due to the usually favorable prognosis and a rapid course of the disease, no long-term follow-up examinations are necessary in the case of an acute manifestation.
Only in the case of renewed complaints does a person concerned turn to a doctor. Adequate hygiene, a balanced diet and a healthy weight prevent re-infection. A strong immune system is able to defend itself against infection. In the case of hepatitis, the liver is particularly affected.
If there is a chronic form or if the patient has consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, long-term damage often occurs. Regular checks are then recommended. Blood tests, tissue samples and ultrasound images provide clarity about the progression of the disease. Drugs often complement therapy.
All aftercare measures are aimed at making the everyday life of a patient with a chronic course of hepatitis bearable. It is important to find the right dose depending on the extent of the symptoms. Monitoring may be used to make a decision about liver transplantation. Chronic disease sometimes leads to liver cancer. This complication can be fatal and require further extensive treatment.
You can do that yourself
An existing hepatitis disease should be treated by a specialist, since a chronic course can develop in the event of non-treatment or pure self-treatment. There is also a risk of life-threatening complications. The treatment and the measures that those affected can take themselves depend on the cause of the disease.
Hepatitis can develop, for example, as a result of taking medication or alcohol abuse. In this case, a new drug setting should be discussed with the treating doctor or alcohol should be strictly avoided.
If an addiction is already present, medically supervised withdrawal therapy and self-help groups are treatment options. Since most hepatitis diseases are of viral origin, treatment focuses on symptom relief. Depending on the type of virus, the infections heal by themselves or are accompanied by medication.
Since the liver is heavily stressed and damaged in all cases, those affected should pay attention to a low-fat and high- carbohydrate diet. Equally beneficial is a high level of fluid intake – no alcoholic and sugary drinks – as well as adequate sleep. Regular exercise in the fresh air also strengthens the immune system and stimulates the metabolism.
A strong defense is fundamental in the fight against infectious diseases. The body can also be supported in detoxification: through the targeted supply of minerals and lots of fresh vegetables. This balances the acid-base balance and helps the body to better eliminate toxins.