Dr. Ankur Jain
Hepatitis is a potential life-threatening disease and is a major global health problem. This viral disease is caused due to inflammation of liver which harms and ruptures the liver cells. Hepatitis is a communicable illness caused by infectious and non-infectious virus. There are five variants of Hepatitis virus, the types are A, B, C, D and E. It is estimated that over 354 million people overall live with Hepatitis B or C, and most of them are unable to diagnose it and access treatment, a study by WHO.
Understanding Hepatitis C and how is it different from other types
Hepatitis C is among the most common type of liver infection caused by the transmission of Hepatitis C virus. It can start from being a mild illness lasting a few weeks to result into a long-term, chronic disease. This condition can be a serious disease resulting in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer, blood clotting, skin bruising, thyroid, loss of sleep, hypertension and even death. Usually, hepatitis C can transform into a serious condition as there is no such cure for it yet. It is also known as Silent Hepatitis because it damages the body silently, sometimes showing no symptoms at all.
As hepatitis C passes through infected blood, the risk is higher to a child born to mothers who are infected, to those who engage in unprotected sex, and a person having blood-clotting problems like hemophilia. It can also spread by sharing needles, syringes, or any other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs. Every chronic Hepatitis stage begins with an acute Hepatitis. Acute stage mostly remains undiagnosed because the illness remains undiscovered. The point when the symptoms are visible, Hepatitis C might have already caused damage to most of the parts of a patient’s body.
Effect on the liver:
Liver is the foremost organ of the body which is attacked by Hepatitis C virus. The infection makes the liver swollen and inflamed. If left untreated, it can further result into the formation of fibroids. Fibroids might turn into a serious form and cause cirrhosis. The condition hampers the overall functioning of the liver. In chronic situations, patient can suffer from tumors or even result into lung cancer or death.
Effect on the digestive system:
The basic function of liver is to produce bile which helps in digestion of fatty foods. However, the liver stops producing bile due to inflammation which causes serios digestive problems. People with liver damage may experience abnormal weight loss, abdominal pain, restlessness, weakness, nausea, and vomiting. In case of chronic stage, a few people may even suffer from ascites, which is a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Ascites may cause the abdomen to appear bloated or distended.
Effect on the nervous system:
Misfunctioning of the liver can lead to damaging the central nervous system. Patient might experience changes in personality, loss of concentration, state of confusion, disturbing sleep pattern, and difficulty performing fine motor skills. In case of chronic stage of Hepatitis C, patient experiences more severe CNS symptoms abnormal shaking of body, slurred speech, and coma.
Effect on the circulatory system:
The circulatory system gets damaged when a person is infected with Hepatitis C. Damaged liver impacts the blood flow and increase the blood pressure in the large veins. As the pressure increases, the blood flows through the smaller veins leading them to burst. This condition is known as variceal bleeding. It is a condition of serious internal bleeding.
Effect on the endocrine system:
The HCV may attack the thyroid tissues and a patient may experience unexpected weight lose or weight gain. The condition is known as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which can cause sleep disorders and weight loss or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), which can cause fatigue and weight gain.
Precautionary steps that can help to reduce serious damage:
There is no specific way to prevent Hepatitis, however, here are few precautionary steps that can safeguard from serious damage:
- Frequent handwashing is key when it comes to preventing Hepatitis
- Avoiding contact with people who are sick
- Educating children to take precautionary measure like covering coughs and sneezes, and reminding them to not touch the eyes, nose, or mouth
- Ensuring safe blood transfusions and usage of fresh injections
- Ensuring adequate rest and a balanced diet for fast recovery
- Using alcoholic liquids for cleaning purpose
- Staying away from alcohol and tobacco
- Screening, early detection and initiation of treatment
- Blood transfusion, liver transplant are some other methods to stop the progression of Hepatitis.
(The author is a Gastroenterologist, Manipal Hospitals, Gurugram. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)