Pre­vent­ing hep­ati­tis

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Healthy Liver -

THE heav­i­est and largest in­ter­nal or­gan is the liver. The liver’s main func­tion is to process ev­ery­thing you in­gest and pu­rify your blood.

The most amaz­ing thing about your liver is that it can re­pair it­self when its cells sus­tain mi­nor dam­age. In cases of se­vere dam­age or in­flam­ma­tion, your liver stops func­tion­ing prop­erly and the re­sult­ing con­di­tion can be fa­tal.

In­flam­ma­tion of the liver is called hep­ati­tis, which can be caused by a virus, al­co­holism, fatty liver, au­toim­mu­nity or pro­longed use of cer­tain drugs.

While hep­ati­tis due to other causes is pre­ventable through life­style in­ter­ven­tion such as healthy eat­ing and moderation of al­co­hol in­take, vi­ral hep­ati­tis is pre­ventable only by vac­ci­na­tion.

Gone vi­ral

Vi­ral hep­ati­tis is caused by one or more of five types of viruses.

Hep­ati­tis A virus – This virus is trans­ferred through con­tact with in­fected fae­cal mat­ter and spreads through food and wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with in­fected hu­man fae­ces.

Peo­ple usu­ally re­cover from hep­ati­tis A with­out per­ma­nent liver dam­age and with life­long im­mu­nity. How­ever, hep­ati­tis A can turn to ful­mi­nant hep­ati­tis in some cases, which can be fa­tal. Hep­ati­tis B virus – The most com­mon vi­ral hep­ati­tis in Malaysia as well as the world, hep­ati­tis B is pre­ventable through vac­ci­na­tion, which, ac­cord­ing to World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, is 95% ef­fec­tive against the virus. A po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing dis­ease, hep­ati­tis B can cause a chronic liver in­fec­tion with in­creased risk of he­patic can­cer and cir­rho­sis.

Spread through con­tam­i­nated bod­ily flu­ids, chronic hep­ati­tis B is treat­able, but there is no pre­cise treat­ment for acute cases. Hep­ati­tis C virus – A blood­borne virus, hep­ati­tis C cases can be acute (sud­denly oc­cur­ring) or chronic (de­vel­op­ing over a long pe­riod). While re­cov­ery is usu­ally pos­si­ble in acute cases, peo­ple with chronic hep­ati­tis C can de­velop cir­rho­sis or he­patic can­cer, which can be fa­tal. Treat­ment is pos­si­ble, but there is cur­rently no vac­ci­na­tion against hep­ati­tis C. Hep­ati­tis D virus – When this virus oc­curs to­gether with the hep­ati­tis B virus, one de­vel­ops hep­ati­tis D. Peo­ple with chronic hep­ati­tis B can ac­quire hep­ati­tis D from a car­rier through nee­dle-shar­ing, blood and sex­ual con­tact.

What makes hep­ati­tis D dan­ger­ous is that its co-ex­is­tence with hep­ati­tis B makes it dif­fi­cult to treat. How­ever, if it is not treated, both con­di­tions can cause cir­rho­sis, which can lead to liver fail­ure.

The best way to pre­vent hep­ati­tis D is to be vac­ci­nated against hep­ati­tis B. Hep­ati­tis E virus – Sim­i­lar to the hep­ati­tis A virus, this virus spreads through food and wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with in­fected hu­man fae­ces.

Most hep­ati­tis E cases are un­com­pli­cated and full re­cov­ery is pos­si­ble with­out per­ma­nent liver dam­age.

Pos­si­ble indi­ca­tors

It is very likely that if you have hep­ati­tis, you may not have any ap­par­ent symp­toms, which makes this dis­ease even more dan­ger­ous. Ini­tial symp­toms of hep­ati­tis mir­ror symp­toms of the com­mon flu and can in­ter­fere with di­ag­no­sis.

How­ever, it is im­per­a­tive that you sched­ule a check-up if you no­tice any of the symp­toms as an early di­ag­no­sis can save your life. It is, af­ter all, bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

Look out for these symp­toms that can be early indi­ca­tors of hep­ati­tis.

Mild fever Pro­longed loss of ap­petite Vom­it­ing and nau­sea Pro­longed fa­tigue Ab­dom­i­nal pain

Joint and mus­cu­lar pain

If you have most of the above symp­toms, it is ad­vis­able to also keep an eye out for the fol­low­ing ones, which in­di­cate ad­vanced hep­ati­tis. Im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion is re­quired if you dis­play these symp­toms.

Yel­low­ing of skin, nails and whites of the eyes, com­monly known as jaun­dice Dark-coloured urine Light-coloured stools Pierc­ing ab­dom­i­nal pain

Vi­ral hep­ati­tis can af­fect any­one, but peo­ple who are not vac­ci­nated face a higher risk of get­ting in­fected.

Such in­di­vid­u­als should be ex­tra care­ful around peo­ple with hep­ati­tis and when vis­it­ing a coun­try that has a high preva­lence of vi­ral hep­ati­tis.

Since chronic hep­ati­tis B can be passed on to foe­tuses by moth­ers, it is im­por­tant for in­fected moth­ers to un­dergo reg­u­lar check-ups.

A pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure is to have new­born ba­bies vac­ci­nated against the virus.

On the non-vi­ral hep­ati­tis front, peo­ple who lead un­healthy life­styles in­clud­ing those who are al­co­holic, get lit­tle to no ex­er­cise and prac­tise un­healthy eat­ing habits are more likely to de­velop the dis­ease.

The best way to fight this deadly liver dis­ease is through aware­ness. Ed­u­cate your­self about hep­ati­tis and its symp­toms, causes, treat­ment pro­ce­dures and preven­tion meth­ods to keep your­self and your loved ones safe.

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