ABC – hepatitis alphabet

Hepatitis? Is it jaundice or something? It is also called Botkin’s disease.

Not quite, hepatitis is a common name for inflammatory liver diseases, and they can be caused by different reasons: poisoning (toxic hepatitis), the attack of liver cells by the own immune system (autoimmune hepatitis), but most often, speaking of hepatitis, we mean viral hepatitis – damage to liver cells by specific viruses. And Botkin’s disease is one of the types of viral hepatitis.

Then what does jaundice have to do with it?

ABC - hepatitis alphabet

Jaundice is one of the symptoms of hepatitis. The fact that the liver plays an important role in binding bilirubin – a substance that is formed in our body when hemoglobin from old blood cells is destroyed. Unbound bilirubin is toxic and poorly excreted from the body, and after transformation in the liver it becomes safer and excreted together with bile. If there are any problems with the liver, it starts to cope worse with bilirubin binding, and it accumulates in various organs and tissues, coloring them yellow. That’s why the proteins of the eyes and skin turn yellow with jaundice. However, viral hepatitis is not the only possible cause of jaundice, it can occur in any lesion of the liver, from cirrhosis to mechanical injury or obstruction of the bile ducts. At the same time, jaundice is not an obligatory symptom of hepatitis, there are also yellow-free forms.

Why hepatitis? Are they also different?

Yes, as we have already found out before, hepatitis can also be non-infectious. But viral hepatitis is also different. Today, hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F and G are secreted – depending on the virus that causes the disease. It is important to understand that different viral hepatitis are completely different diseases, not subtypes or stages of a single disease. Each hepatitis is caused by its causative agent, has its own course, different ways of transmission, different methods of treatment and prevention. Common in viral hepatitis – only that the target in all cases is the liver.

And how do I know then that I have been infected if there are almost no symptoms?

It is necessary to take tests, first of all for hepatitis B and C. In all cases, you have to give blood. When testing for hepatitis B, the blood most often shows the virus’s surface antigen (one of the proteins in its shell) or viral DNA. In a hepatitis C test, viral RNA is most often detected, and less often antibodies to viral proteins are detected. These tests are highly accurate and can also be taken anonymously.

Can we speak again about the treatment?

ABC - hepatitis alphabet

Yes, in short, the treatment of viral hepatitis depends on the form (acute or chronic) and type of hepatitis. In the acute course (two or three weeks from the onset of symptoms), in most cases, hepatitis does not require special treatment, only general supportive measures and symptomatic treatment are needed. In the case of a severe current, you may sometimes need to be hospitalized. Hepatitis A and E do not go into chronic form and end in complete recovery. Hepatitis B and C may become chronic, which requires treatment. In the case of chronic hepatitis C, there are new drugs that in most cases can completely remove the virus from the body, but such treatment is very expensive. But chronic hepatitis B, unfortunately, we are not yet able to treat so effectively, and the existing schemes only allow to slow down the disease and reduce liver damage. In any case, the earlier the treatment is started, the higher chances are that the disease will not go into cirrhosis or liver cancer.