World Hepatitis Day: Causes, symptoms and expert tips to avoid liver damage

World Hepatitis Day, which is observed on July 28 every year, aims to create awareness of the disease worldwide. Here are the causes of the disease and a few tips to avoid liver damage.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver — a condition that may lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Although the cause is not exactly known, it may occur due to some kind of infection and use of toxic substances. According to Dr Abhideep Chaudhary, senior consultant, Liver Transplant Department, Jaypee Hospital, “Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the liver of unknown cause. In this disease, there is a failure of immune tolerance leading to immune attack against the liver cells.”

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There are five main types of hepatitis virus, referred to as A, B, C, D and E. Initial symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, abdominal pain and arthritis. But there are exceptions. “In many patients, there will be no symptoms at all and the condition is diagnosed on a routine liver function test by an elevation in levels of liver enzymes,” Dr Chaudhary adds.

People with hepatitis need to follow a healthy lifestyle to stop the liver from getting damaged. “Proper food hygiene can significantly prevent viral hepatitis, apart from vaccines for hepatitis A,” Dr Randhir Sud, chairman of the Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences says, adding, “Hepatitis B and C can be prevented by ensuring safe injections and blood transfusion services are used. Universal vaccines are very effective for Hepatitis B and can eventually eradicate it. Alcohol and drug-related hepatitis can also be prevented by maintaining a prudent lifestyle.”

“Alcohol should completely be avoided,” Dr Chaudhary says. “Even a little amount of alcohol, if taken by patients with liver disease, the condition may worsen.” He further recommends eating a well-balanced diet and following a regular low-intensity workout. “Obesity can increase the risk of fatty liver disease and may complicate autoimmune hepatitis.”

An analysis of data around viral hepatitis A, B, C and E by SRL Diagnostics reveals that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is “more common among the population in Northern states of India”. From the 10 lakh samples collected over the last few years, the water-borne Hepatitis E Virus was found to be the most common (24%) laboratory diagnosed viral hepatitis in India. This was followed by Hepatitis A Virus (11%). The analysis is based on data of tests carried out at SRL labs across the country between January 2015 and June 2018.

“For hepatitis E and A virus infections, hygiene and sanitation play a major role, whereas, for hepatitis B and C virus, a complete lifestyle awareness is extremely important,” Dr Avinash Phadke, president, Technology & Mentor (Clinical Pathology) of SRL Diagnostics says.

Once diagnosed with hepatitis, the patient must see a doctor on a regular basis and should take only prescribed medication to ensure that the liver remains as healthy as possible to avoid any further complications.

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