Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. There are several causes for liver inflammation including certain medical conditions, as well as, lifestyle (use of drugs, alcohols, etc.). However, one of the most common reasons for Hepatitis is a virus, which is called viral hepatitis. Three of the most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
There is little to no sign during the initial stages of hepatitis infection, which is also called as the acute phase. However, at the latter stages, symptoms start to appear which include; fatigue, mild fever, poor appetite, jaundice, belly pain, and others. Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C may show no symptoms at all for years, which means that by the time symptoms start to appear, the disease is already in its advanced stages with a damaged liver.
Hepatitis A: What Happens
Hepatitis A isn’t the most lethal form of hepatitis, even though it is highly contagious and spread quickly in various settings. Fortunately, this isn’t the deadly type and most of the time patients don’t even experience any symptoms for the same. The hepatitis A goes away on its own most of the time, without any severe damage to the liver.
Hepatitis A: How Does It Spread?
The most common spread of hepatitis A is through food and water. Food that is touched by an infected person without washing hands after using the washroom may be tainted with the virus. Some of the other culprits that cause the spread of hepatitis A virus include eating raw shellfish, undercooked foods, and unwashed fruits and vegetables. Daycare centers are also vulnerable to the outbreak of the virus given the employees there aren’t careful about regular handwashing after changing diapers.
Hepatitis A: Who Is at Risk?
People traveling to countries with a high rate of hepatitis A infections are at most risk of catching the virus. CDC maintains the travel advisory for travelers to learn about the recent virus outbreaks in different countries. Also, drinking tap water or eating raw foods during traveling increases the chances of getting infected with the virus. Daycare employees and children are also more vulnerable towards catching the hepatitis A infection.
Hepatitis B: What Happens
The majority of the patients infected with Hepatitis B feel mild symptoms for some time, however, they are able to recover on their own. However, the immune system of some people isn’t able to clear the virus from the body on their own, which may lead to long time infection. The majority of the children getting infected with hepatitis B carries the virus for a lifetime. If the hepatitis B virus is not removed from the body for a long time, it may damage the liver severely causing complete liver failure or even liver cancer.
Hepatitis B: How Does It Spread?
Hepatitis B is not as contagious as hepatitis A, however, it does spread from an infected person. People coming in contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person are highly vulnerable to contract the virus. The most common reason for the spread of hepatitis B is unprotected sex. It can also spread by sharing needles, razors, or toothbrushes of an infected person. Also, the hepatitis B virus can pass on to a child by an infected mother. However, hepatitis B doesn’t spread through food sharing or hugging the infected person.
Hepatitis B: Who Is at Risk?
While anyone can contract hepatitis B, the people who have unprotected sex with multiple partners or take drugs illegally are at considerably higher risk than others. Other people who are at increased risk of contracting hepatitis B virus include healthcare workers who are excessively exposed to blood or caregivers who take care of chronic hepatitis B patients.
Hepatitis C: What Happens
A quarter of people infected with hepatitis C are able to recover from the virus in a short time on their own, whereas, the other people would be carrying the virus for a long time. Chronic hepatitis C can lead to severe complications for patients which includes complete liver failure, as well as, liver cancer. Fortunately, there are effective medication and treatment for the hepatitis C virus available.
Hepatitis C: How Does It Spread?
The most common way of hepatitis C spread is through coming in contact with infected blood. This means that people who take drugs illegally and share the same needle to inject drugs are at most risk of contracting the virus. Similarly, getting a tattoo done from an unprofessional shop without disinfecting the needles may lead to hepatitis C contraction. The virus can also be passed on by mothers to children at birth. While unprotected sex with multiple partners also increases the chances of catching the virus, it’s rare.
Hepatitis C: Who Is at Risk?
Drug addicts are at the most risk of contracting hepatitis C. Since most of the time there are no symptoms related to hepatitis C, it is highly advisable to practice caution every time you have to come in contact with the needle. Also, people who have blood transfusion pre-1992 are at a higher risk of being infected by the hepatitis C virus, since before 1992, the blood was not screened for the virus.
How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed?
Most of the time chronic hepatitis is a silent infection, which makes it harder to diagnose at an early stage. The symptoms only appear at an advanced stage when permanent damage is already done to the liver. Hepatitis virus can be easily diagnosed through blood tests, which is why it is advised to get tested for hepatitis even with mildest of symptoms.
Who Should Be Tested for Hepatitis?
Testing for hepatitis viral is important for all people who are at a higher chance of contracting the disease (we have mentioned people at higher risk for each type of hepatitis above). Some of the people who definitely need to test for hepatitis include drug addicts, people who have had unprotected sex with multiple partners, and children born with infected mothers. According to one study by Stanford University’s Asian liver Center, people from Asian heritage are at a higher risk of being infected by hepatitis.
Also, healthcare providers who frequently come in contact with blood need to get tested for hepatitis viral.
What if You Test Positive?
If you are tested positive for any type of hepatitis, you should immediately start taking precautions to protect your family and friends. People infected with hepatitis A should make it a habit to wash hands regularly. For people infected with hepatitis B and C should avoid sharing nail cutters, razors, and toothbrushes with other people. Also, hepatitis B and C can be spread through sexual contact. It’s important to get the hepatitis B vaccine for every family member. Also, it’s important to start seeing a specialist start your treatment.
Treatment: Hepatitis A
As said above, the majority of the times hepatitis A goes away within a short time resisted by the body’s immune system with no need for medication. Few lifestyle changes may help in the body to eliminate the virus from the body more easily like staying hydrated and taking multiple smaller meals instead of three large ones.
Treatment: Chronic Hepatitis B
The ultimate goal for hepatitis B treatment is to keep the virus from spreading and protect the liver from damage. Thereby, the treatment of hepatitis B starts with regular monitoring of the liver for any signs of damage. While there are certain antiviral medications that be may prescribed by doctors, however, not everyone can take or need to take the medication. Your doctor would recommend the right treatment options based on the severity of the disease and other factors.
Treatment: Chronic Hepatitis C
There are various medications available for the treatment of hepatitis C, which is prescribed by doctors as per patients’ health factors and disease severity. The FDA has recently approved glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Mavyret) medication for the treatment of hepatitis C. These new medications offer short treatment cycles which may starts from 8 weeks. These medications can be taken by patients infected with all types of hepatitis C who don’t have cirrhosis.
Monitoring Chronic Hepatitis
The treatment of hepatitis B and C are mainly related to managing liver damage. For this, doctors typically recommend blood tests frequently to check the working of the liver. In certain cases, doctors may also prescribe ultrasound and CT scans to check the severity of damage to the liver. In cases where the virus isn’t damaging the liver, there is no need for medication or treatment. However, regular tests are important to check the status of the liver and diagnose any complications at the early stages.
Folio3 – Your partner in Hepatitis Healthcare Solution
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