What is Viral Hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis is characterised by the destruction of liver cells and the presence of inflammatory cells in the liver tissue.
Viral hepatitis comes in 5 forms, from A to E. It can be categorised into acute and chronic depending on how it lasts- acute hepatitis lasts for less than six months and chronic hepatitis lasts for longer than six months.
Hepatitis A is caused by putting something in your mouth which has been contaminated with the stools of someone infected with the virus.
Hepatitis B is present in bodily fluids like blood, saliva and semen, and can be passed through unprotected sex or sharing needles.
Hepatitis C is particularly concentrated in the blood, and is usually transmitted by sharing contaminated needles.
Hepatitis D is only present in people already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis E is caused by putting something in your mouth which has been contaminated with the stools of someone infected with the virus.
How common is Viral Hepatitis?
Hepatitis A is the most common type of viral hepatitis. Although it occurs in the UK, it is more countries where sanitation and sewage disposal are poor.
Hepatitis B is not very common in the UK: approximately one in 1,000 people are thought to have the virus. Hepatitis C is common in intravenous drug users who share equipment.
Hepatitis D and E are rarer.
What are the symptoms of Viral Hepatitis?
The symptoms of acute hepatitis include tiredness, slight fever, nausea, pressure below the right rib, aching muscles, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, dark urine and light coloured stools.
Many people with chronic hepatitis have no symptoms, although they may suffer tiredness, light pressure below the right rib and jaundice.
How is Viral Hepatitis treated?
No medical treatment is generally required for acute viral hepatitis, although antiviral medication can be prescribed. Liver transplantation might be needed if complications arise.
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