HEALTHMedical

Hepatitis A

Digestive Health

By Dr Saravana.K

It is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause liver inflammation and affect your liver�s ability to function. The virus usually is spread when a person ingests even tiny amounts of contaminated fecal matter.

Hepatitis A virus can be transmitted by:

Eating food handled by someone with the virus who doesn�t thoroughly wash his or her hands after using the toilet; drinking contaminated water; eating raw shellfish from water polluted with sewage; being in close contact with a person who�s infected � even if that person has no signs or symptoms; or having sex with someone who has the virus.

Risk Factors

The risk factors are: travelling or working in regions with high rates of hepatitis A; attending or working in a childcare centre; being HIV positive; using injected or non injected illicit drugs; or living with another person who has hepatitis A.

If you�ve been exposed to Hepatitis A, having a hepatitis A vaccine or immunoglobulin therapy within two weeks of exposure may protect you from infection. Ask your doctor about receiving the hepatitis A vaccine.

Symptoms

Typically, symptoms don�t appear until you�ve had the virus for a few weeks. They include: fatigue, nausea and vomiting; abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs; clay-coloured bowel movements; loss of appetite, low-grade fever, joint pain; dark urine, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

If you have hepatitis A, you may have a mild illness that lasts a few weeks or a severe illness that lasts several months. Not everyone with hepatitis A develops signs or symptoms.

Complications

Unlike other types of viral hepatitis, hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver damage, and it doesn�t become chronic. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause loss of liver function that occurs suddenly, especially in older adults or people with chronic liver diseases. Acute liver failure requires hospitalization for monitoring and treatment. Some people with acute liver failure may require a liver transplant.

Tests and Diagnosis

Blood tests are used to detect the presence of hepatitis A in your body. No specific treatment exists for hepatitis A. Your body will clear the hepatitis A virus on its own.

Treatments and Drugs

Hepatitis A treatment usually focuses on coping with your signs and symptoms. You may need to:

Rest. Many people with hepatitis A infection feel tired and sick and have less energy.

Cope with nausea. Nausea can make it difficult to eat. Try snacking throughout the day rather than eating full meals. To get enough calories, eat more high-calorie foods. For instance, drink fruit juice or milk rather than water.

Rest your liver. Your liver may have difficulty processing medications and alcohol. Review your medications, including over-the-counter drugs, with your doctor. Don�t drink alcohol while infected with hepatitis.

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