liver diseases


Written by Dr. K Sneha and medically reviewed by Ankur Jindal

Image: Hepatitis


Overview of Hepatitis

Inflammation of the liver is called hepatitis, which is mainly caused by a viral infection. Sometimes, it can be an autoimmune condition or a result of medications, drugs, alcohol, and toxins. The liver is present on the right side of the abdomen and helps in carrying out crucial functions in the body.

Functions of the Liver:

The liver helps in,

  • Bile production which is essential for digestion.

  • Filter toxins from the body.

  • Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, drugs, and hormones.

  • Synthesis of albumin and clotting factors.

  • Glycogen, mineral, and vitamin storage.

  • Activate enzymes that are essential for body function.

  • Breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Viral Hepatitis:

There are five types of viral hepatitis which are hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, and it is caused by Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses respectively.

Hepatitis A


It is a highly contagious liver disease caused by drinking or eating something contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus. The infection usually spreads when the virus present in the fecal matter of an infected person gets mixed in your food, even a minimal amount of it. As it is not airborne, it does not spread through sneezing and coughing. It can also spread by having sexual intercourse with an infected person. People who eat uncooked shellfish which has been contaminated with sewage water, travel to countries where hepatitis A infection is common, and have a chronic liver condition are at risk for developing hepatitis A infection.

Treatment and Prevention of Hepatitis:

There is no specific treatment available for hepatitis A infection. The body will clear itself off the virus. Mostly, the liver damage heals within six months. Just symptomatic treatment is given for nausea and other symptoms. Avoid taking medicines and alcohol during this infection, as it might cause more damage to your liver.

Hepatitis A vaccine is available, which helps prevent this infection. It is given in two shots, one initially and the second after six months. Apart from the vaccine, follow some precautionary measures like wash and peel all fruits and vegetables, do not eat raw fish and meat, wash your hands properly before eating, and boil water before drinking.

Hepatitis B


Hepatitis B is caused when the Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through infected body fluids like blood, vaginal secretions, and semen. It can be transferred from mother to her baby during birth, sharing a razor with an infected person, sharing needles, and having sexual intercourse with an infected person.

Treatment and Prevention:

If you have tested positive for Hepatitis B virus, the doctor will give you a vaccination and an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin. If you develop symptoms, you need to be on bed rest and keep yourself hydrated. Avoid taking medicines that might harm the liver further. Avoid taking alcohol. If the infection is gone, you will be an inactive carrier lifelong.

In chronic hepatitis, the infection is active for more than 6 months. In such cases, medicines like Entecavir, Tenofovir, Lamivudine, Adefovir, and Interferon alfa are prescribed.

Hepatitis B vaccine is the best way to prevent this infection. It is given in three shots. People who are at risk of contracting this virus should get the vaccination. People that are at risk are homosexual men, people with multiple sexual partners, IV drug users, health care workers, etc.

Hepatitis C


Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. This virus is also spread through blood and body fluids of an infected person. The ways you can get infected are by sharing needles, through sex, at birth from mother to her child, getting a tattoo with contaminated equipment, organ transplant, etc.

Treatment and Prevention:

An acute infection of Hepatitis C does not require any treatment apart from rest and hydration. In case of a chronic infection, your doctor might prescribe medicines like Interferon, Ribavirin, Daclatasvir, Sofosbuvir-Velpatasvir, Ledipasvir-Sofosbuvir, Glecaprevir, and Pibrentasvir.

As of now, there is no vaccination available for hepatitis C. It is best to prevent this infection by using a condom during sex and avoid sharing needles, razors, and other injectable equipment.

Hepatitis D


The Hepatitis D virus causes hepatitis D or delta hepatitis. But not everyone can get infected by this virus. You can only get infected with this virus if you have already had hepatitis B infection. The infection is highly contagious and can spread through blood and body fluids like vaginal secretions, semen, and urine of an infected person. It can also be transmitted to the baby from the mother at birth.

Treatment and Prevention:

There is no known vaccination available for this infection. But as it only affects people with Hepatitis B infection, Hepatitis B vaccine helps in preventing Hepatitis D indirectly.

There is also no cure for this disease. If you have been tested positive for Hepatitis D, your doctor might give you Interferon, which is a type of protein that prevents the virus from spreading. As of now, this disease is not curable, thus avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, needles, and other personal items.

Hepatitis E


Like hepatitis A, hepatitis E is also transmitted by consuming food contaminated with an infected person’s fecal matter. It is more common in places that have a lack of clean water. You can also get infected by eating uncooked pork or deer meat.

Treatment and Prevention:

Most people recover from this illness in 4 to 6 weeks on their own. Just drink a lot of water, eat healthily, rest, and avoid alcohol.

There is no vaccine available. Drink water after boiling it, wash shellfish properly before eating, wash hands properly after using the bathroom, and avoid eating undercooked meat.

Noninfectious Hepatitis:

Autoimmune Hepatitis


The body’s immune system attacks the liver cells causing inflammation of the liver. It is believed to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.


The treatment option is to slow or stop the immune system from attacking the liver cells. This is achieved by taking Prednisone and Azathioprine.

Alcoholic Hepatitis


Excessive alcohol consumption might cause short or long term liver damage.


Avoid drinking alcohol. A low-sodium diet should be taken along with vitamins and diuretics. Corticosteroid drugs might be prescribed to reduce liver swelling.

Symptoms of Hepatitis:

Symptoms develop only after a few weeks after getting infected, and some people do not develop any signs or symptoms. The usual symptoms are:

  • Tiredness.
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.
  • Pain on the right side of the abdomen.
  • Gray stools.
  • Fever.
  • Dark urine.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Severe itching.
  • Joint pain.

Diagnosis of Hepatitis:

If you develop hepatitis symptoms, it is best you consult your doctor. The doctor will take a complete history to determine any risk factors for you to develop hepatitis. If he or she suspects hepatitis, you will need to perform the following tests-

  • Liver function test - Liver function test is a blood test that determines how efficiently your liver works. High levels of liver enzymes show that there is something wrong with your liver.

  • Other blood tests - If the liver function test is abnormal, other blood tests are done to determine the cause of liver damage. It usually looks for the antibodies of different hepatitis virus.

  • Ultrasound - Abdominal ultrasound is used to look at your liver and surrounding organs. It will show if there is any fluid in your abdomen, liver enlargement, or liver growth.

  • Liver biopsy - A sample of your liver tissue is taken with a needle through your skin. The liver tissue can show how infected your liver is.

Complications of Hepatitis:

  • Long-standing or chronic hepatitis might cause the following complications-

  • Fibrosis - Constant inflammation causes scar tissue formation on the liver which is called fibrosis.

  • Cirrhosis - Excessive fibrosis or liver scarring is known as cirrhosis.

  • Liver cancer - Hepatocellular carcinoma or cholangiolar carcinoma might develop as a result of cirrhosis.

  • Liver failure - The liver functioning is damaged by scar tissue formation and other factors, leading to liver failure.

The recovery time taken for different types of hepatitis is different. Most people recover without any permanent complication. Sometimes, chronic hepatitis causes liver damage beyond repair. In such cases, liver transplantation is done. Talk to your doctor about the medicines and food that might worsen your liver condition. Take rest and drink a lot of fluids.

Last reviewed at: 29.Jan.2019



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