29 July 2013


Guest Writer: Amadi Chizi Victor

Image Credit: royaltimes.net

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver most commonly caused by a viral infection and it is characterised by the presence of inflammatory cells in the tissue of the organ. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. Although the burden of the disease caused by viral hepatitis is growing according to statistical reports, most people including health workers are still in the dark about the general concept and more so the physiological significance of this disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are about 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A every year. Also,  about 240 million people and 150 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus respectively . Consequently, WHO officially marks the World Hepatitis Day on July 28 of every year in order to raise global awareness of viral hepatitis, encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The theme for this year's World Hepatitis Day is This is Hepatitis...Know It Confront It.

It is necessary to appreciate the significance of the liver as a vital organ of the body system since it is primarily affected by hepatitis so as to have an understanding of the enormous threat posed by this disease. The liver, being the largest gland in the human body, plays a major role in metabolism and has a number of functions in the body including glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells, plasma protein synthesis, hormone production and detoxification. It  functions in emulsification of lipids as well as in maintaining homeostasis. The liver also helps in the synthesis and breakdown of small and complex molecules, many of which are necessary for normal vital functions.

So what causes hepatitis? Hepatitis viruses are the major causes of hepatitis. However, hepatitis may also be caused by toxic substances such as alcohol, certain medication, etc., other infections and autoimmune diseases. The hepatitis viruses may be transmitted through contact with contaminated matter, blood or  body fluids. Hepatitis B is often sexually transmitted and also from mother to child at birth.

There are two phases of hepatitis, acute and chronic hepatitis which  may or may not be symptomatic. When symptoms appear, they usually do so about 15-180 days after the person has become infected. The symptoms of acute hepatitis are akin to that of mild flu, and may include diarrhoea, weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, mild fever, muscle or joint aches to name a few. Chronic hepatitis show non-specific symptoms such as malaise, weakness and tiredness and often leads to no symptoms at all. Chronic hepatitis is usually identified via blood tests. The occurrence of jaundice indicates advanced liver damage. Cirrhosis which is the extensive damage to and scarring of the liver leads to various complications.

Image Credit: MyHepatitisDay

Treatment and Prevention: 
Hepatitis A and E do not have treatments. They usually resolve on their own after a couple of weeks to months. Treatment for Hepatitis B, C and D are usually with drugs like interferon and ribovirun which are sometimes combined.

People are encouraged to take preventive measures and this is easier and more economical than treatment. Hepatitis can be prevented by practicing good hygiene and maintaining a clean and healthy environment. To prevent hepatitis B, couples are advised to practice safe sex. It is also important to know one's status so as to initiate treatment and curtail transmission to other people . Sharing of sharp objects, toothbrush, manicure instruments are strongly advised against.

Non-viral hepatitis, i.e those caused by alcohol and toxic substances can be checked by taking precautionary measures like:
*moderate consumption of alcohol or abstinence;
*having knowledge of the nature of the lethal content as well as heeding to the prescribed use of a chemical product with regards to safety and using protective gear when necessary.

About Our Guest Writer:
Chizi Amadi, who hails from Port Harcourt is a young burgeoning freelance writer who loves to contribute to worthy causes, and his debut book is due next year.

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