What is Hepatitis | Symptoms and Causes of Hepatitis?

Discoveries are made in hepatology to diagnose and treat liver diseases more effectively every year. The causes of the disease can be some drugs, poisoning with mushrooms and industrial poisons, drinking alcohol, including beer, obesity, chronic cardiovascular diseases, diseases of the kidneys, thyroid gland, etc.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammatory disease of the liver. Liver damage can occur with toxicosis of pregnant women, extensive burns, diseases caused by human parasites (Opisthobranchia, helminths, giardia, etc.) Liver diseases are often accompanied by damage to the biliary tract gallbladder.

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Viral hepatitis is the most common liver disease. Every year, 1-2 million people die from acute viral hepatitis alone globally. The causes may be hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, G, TTV and other viral infections (herpes, adenovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, etc.).

The most noticeable symptom of liver disease is the jaundice of the skin and mucous membranes. Often worried about unmotivated weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, pain or a feeling of heaviness in the right hypochondrium or epigastrium, joint pain, dark urine and lightening of the stool; flu-like symptoms, fever may occur. 

There are no specific symptoms of chronic hepatitis. Liver damage, skin rashes, pruritus, allergic reactions, and solar allergies are often noted. The progression of the disease leads to the development of complications in the form of varicose veins of the oesophagus and stomach, in which bleeding from them is possible, as well as oedema in the legs encephalopathy.

Unfortunately, hepatitis is often asymptomatic for a long time, complicating their early detection and timely treatment. Viral hepatitis is considered chronic if the disease lasts more than six months and the immune system cannot cope.

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Chronic hepatitis can last a lifetime and slowly destroy the liver, leading to cirrhosis and liver failure or cancer. 65% of liver cancers are associated with hepatitis B or C. 

If a person does not receive treatment, then the dynamics of “chronic hepatitis – cirrhosis – cancer” is considered the most typical.

“Liver cancer against the background of cirrhosis develops in 3–5% of patients,” says Olga Glushko, gastroenterologist, leading specialist of the Semeynaya clinic chain. – According to studies, the probability of degeneration of cirrhosis into a malignant tumour is 60%. 

This is primarily the increase in the number of patients who have cirrhosis of the liver due to chronic hepatitis B (10–25%) and C (2–6%). Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary liver cancer. As a rule, it occurs due to cirrhosis of the liver in chronic hepatitis B and C. 

Still, it can also develop in other liver diseases – hereditary hemochromatosis, NAFLD, alcoholic liver disease. This type of cancer is the third most lethal type, second only to lung cancer and stomach cancer.”

A person who developed symptoms of hepatitis that caused him to see a doctor was much more fortunate than a person who had asymptomatic acute hepatitis and got chronic.

The main danger of hepatitis is that both acute and chronic forms can be asymptomatic. Often, a patient discovers hepatitis when the disease has already led to cirrhosis, an irreversible condition that significantly reduces life expectancy.

Hepatitis presents with similar symptoms regardless of cause or type. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomit
  • Fatigue, Lethargy, Drowsiness
  • Pain in the abdomen, especially in the liver
  • Hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver)
  • Poor appetite
  • Subfebrile temperature
  • Sin jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Faecal lighting
  • Arthralgia (joint pain) 

These symptoms can be manifestations of many diseases. The doctor must make an accurate diagnosis.

Many Reasons Can Cause It

Liver damage by toxic substances: alcohol (up to 20% of all cases of infectious hepatitis), drugs, poisons, inedible mushrooms, drugs, etc.;

infections such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, or COVID-19.

Autoimmune hepatitis, a person’s immune system attacks their liver cells, mistaking them for an infection. 

This disease can develop both on its own and in combination with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Sjogren’s syndrome; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD, steatosis) is a disease in which too much fat accumulates in the liver, causing organ damage, including hepatitis. NAFLD mainly affects overweight people and diabetics.

Where Does Disease Come From

The source of infection is a sick person. With viral hepatitis A, infection occurs through unwashed vegetables and fruits, dirty hands, contaminated dishes, water; much less often when transfusing the blood of an infected donor and sexually in homosexuals. 

The spread of viral hepatitis B, C, G occurs during blood transfusions and its components, with some medical interventions and insufficient processing of instruments, hemodialysis; violation of the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes (tattoos, piercings, manicures and pedicures, the use of standard blades, scissors and toothbrushes), sexual contact, intravenous drug use.

In recent years, the percentage of viral hepatitis G and the TT virus (TTV hepatitis) detection has increased, primarily due to the improvement of diagnostic methods. 

Often a combination of several viruses (B + C, C + G, etc.) is detected, which leads to a more rapid progression of the disease. With viral hepatitis B and G, there is a so-called vertical route of infection – from the mother through the placenta to the fetus.

The emergence of specific antiviral drugs allows to slow down the disease and completely get rid of the virus in a significant proportion of patients, preventing severe late complications. 

Lack of treatment for many years leads to cirrhosis of the liver and hepatocarcinoma. Currently, hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccination (vaccination), which is the most effective and safe protection method.

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