Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver, typically caused by a group of viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E. Each of these viruses is known to cause different types of hepatitis, such as the following –
Hepatitis A virus or HAV spreads through the consumption of contaminated food and water or sexual intercourse with an infected person. The condition is an acute and short-term one and can be cured with medications.
HBV or type B virus is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as semen or blood of an infected person. Thus, most cases of hepatitis B infection occur due to the sharing of needles, injections, and having unprotected sex. New mothers infected with the type B virus are also likely to pass it on to infants during childbirth.
Like the type B virus, hepatitis C may spread through blood transfusions, contaminated needles often used for intravenous drugs or medical procedures. Mother to infant transmission is also a common cause of hepatitis C is children at birth or early childhood. Sexual contact with an infected partner is a less common cause of the disease.
The most common cause of hepatitis D is coming in direct contact with bodily fluids or blood of an infected person. This is a rare condition, which happens only in those infected with the type B virus.
Like hepatitis A, the type E virus also spreads through the consumption of contaminated water and food ingested with faeces.
In some people, hepatitis may be caused due to an autoimmune condition – known as autoimmune hepatitis. This occurs when your body’s defences attack the liver causing it to become inflamed, damaged and swollen.
Apart from the above causes, a combination of environmental, lifestyle and health factors contribute to hepatitis or at least increase your likelihood of contracting the disease. They are as follows –
The use of unsafe water for washing and drinking
Poor hygiene and lack of proper sanitation
Contact with used syringes, needles
Exposure to harmful toxins
Engaging in unprotected sexual relations
Certain medications and drugs
Consumption of alcohol
History of an autoimmune disease
Having a chronic or acute infection involving one or more of the hepatitis viruses
Not being vaccinated, particularly against hepatitis A and B
In case you have any concerns or questions about the risk of hepatitis, particularly regarding your medical history, any medications you are taking or vaccinations, consult a doctor at the earliest. Your healthcare provider may be able to guide you with the specific steps that need to be taken to lower the chances of having hepatitis or some other liver condition.