Jaundice or Icterus, characterized by a yellowish discoloration of the skin, white of the eyes (sclera) and mucous membranes in the mouth, isn’t an illness, but a medical condition caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin in your bloodstream. Hepatitis is a major cause during rains!
Bilirubin – the cause of yellow color
RBCs, that impart red color to our blood have a lifespan of about 120 days. Bilirubin is a brownish-yellow substance produced when the liver breaks down old/defective red blood cells as part of the RBC’s natural life-cycle (New red blood cells are made all the time to replace the ones being broken down). It is metabolized in the liver as a result of regular hemolysis and is typically removed from the body in stools (90%), giving feces its brownish color. A small portion (10%) is removed in urine too, imparting it a pale yellow color.
However, if liver cells are injured, inflamed, or unable to function properly, the liver will not be able to remove bilirubin, causing its accumulation in the blood and thus jaundice.
See a doctor right away if you think you have jaundice. It may indicate a serious problem with the function of your red blood cells, liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Jaundice, if not treated well in time, can lead to liver failure.
Is a viral infection that attacks the liver. There are five types of hepatitis: hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
Hepatitis types B, C, and D spread primarily through infected blood or body fluids (sexual transmission, though less common, is an important route of exposure, esp. for hepatitis B).
Hepatitis A and E viruses are excreted in the feces of an infected person. You can become infected if you ingest food or water contaminated by an infected stool.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A presents as an inflammation of the liver as a result of the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is considered one of the most infectious foodborne viral illnesses. Although hepatitis A is rarely fatal and will not lead to permanent liver damage, it still is an uncomfortable disease with severe symptoms that can last up to six months. In rare instances, a person with compromised immunity may develop severe and life-threatening complications.
The good news is that you can only be infected once. Your body will naturally develop antibodies to give you lifelong immunity from future hepatitis A infection.
Causes and Mode of Spread
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted through food or water contaminated with feces of infected persons.
Foods typically linked to hepatitis A include – raw or partially-cooked cockles, clams, mussels, oysters or shellfish from contaminated seawaters, raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler.
You have higher chances of getting infected if you are in close contact with a person carrying the virus, even if he has no signs or symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Hepatitis A virus will usually stay in your body for 2 to 6 weeks before you show any signs and symptoms of the disease. The suffering can last anywhere between 2 weeks and 3 months.
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pain in abdomen especially on the right side underneath the ribs, the site where your liver is located.
- Soreness and aching in muscles
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Low-grade fever
- Running nose, cough, and sore throat may be found in kids.
After a few days, you may develop certain symptoms that indicate that your liver is affected, such as:
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Itching of the skin
You are at an increased risk of infection if: you are living with a person affected by Hepatitis A, traveling to an area with a high incidence of Hepatitis A or are immunocompromised as in case of HIV, AIDS, etc.
Depending on the presenting symptoms and severity of the illness, your doctor can advise you the following :
- a complete blood count (CBC)
- liver function tests: If you have jaundice, your bilirubin levels will be high.
- Immunological test: Hepatitis A Virus blood test, to detect the protein made by the body in response to the virus. Results are usually available within 5 to 7 days.
a) Presence of IgM Anti – HAV indicates a recent infection. It becomes positive within 2-3 weeks. Antibodies disappear from the body within a span of 3-12 months.
b) Presence of IgG Anti – HAV indicates chronic infection. These antibodies become positive in blood 8-12 weeks after the initial first infection. They provide life-long immunity against HAV.
- You may be advised an ultrasound or an MRI of the liver, and biopsy in case the cause of jaundice is not viral.
Complications of Hepatitis A
Though Hepatitis A virus does not cause permanent damage/irreversible pathological changes in the liver, rarely it may cause acute liver failure requiring hospitalization.
Get Your Hepatitis A Immunization
Vaccines are available to protect you against hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis A vaccine (Havrix and Vaqta): Given as a series of two shots six months apart.
- Combined hepatitis A and B vaccine (Twinrix): This vaccine is given in a three-dose schedule and when completed, offers immunity against hepatitis A and B both. A booster shot (given six months later) could give you immunity for another 20 years.
Tips On Prevention
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before preparing any food or drinks.
- Avoid eating out in rainy season as water-borne diseases are on a rise. If at all, eat food only from hygienic places.
- Do not use personal care things of the infected persons like – toothbrush, razor, towels, eating utensils, drinking glasses, etc.
- Wash your hands regularly. If the tap water available for washing is likely to be contaminated, use hand sanitizer instead.
- Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables.
- Raw or undercooked shellfish, clams, mussels or oysters are an absolute NO.
- Avoid having tap water, iced drinks or adding ice to your drinks.
- Drink factory-sealed bottled water or boil water before drinking.
- Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth with bottled water.
- Avoid ingesting any water when taking a shower or swimming.
- Avoid eating at unhygienic places.
- Plan to get a hepatitis A vaccination one to two weeks before traveling.
Alcohol, banned drugs, and Hepatitis Risk
Not all hepatitis are caused by a virus. Substances toxic to the liver can cause inflammation and liver damage too. If you have viral hepatitis, exposing your liver to toxins such as alcohol, over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol or acetaminophen (Tylenol), some prescription drugs and herbal supplements can make the liver inflammation worse. Refrain from their use.
Treatment is entirely symptomatic. Most people recover in less than two months, although some may continue to experience discomfort for months. Hospitalization is required only if one experiences dehydration or shows signs of liver failure.
- Take plenty of rest and fluids.
- Take fever and pain-relief medications as prescribed.
- Abstain from deep-fried food.
- Avoid fatty foods like ghee, milk products, refined or white flour (Maida) and alcohol as these will overwork your already inflamed liver.
- Take plenty of fruits, soups and bland diet.
Since Homoeopathy works at the immunological level, it is considered the best mode of treatment for a wide range of viral infections. Its efficacy is well proven in controlling and obtaining better and quicker symptomatic relief. Added advantage: The disease gets under control and one gets a general feeling of wellbeing without any side-effects whatsoever.
Chelidonium majus, Natrum sulphuricum, Pulsatilla nigra, Bryonia alba, Nux vomica, Lycopodium, Arsenic Album, Leptandra, Chelone, Phosphorus, Myrica, Chionanthus are a few top-grade homoeopathic remedies that act wonderfully in acute exacerbations of Hepatitis and bring back the patient to good health.
Note:: Homoeopathic medicines are natural, effective and deep acting without any side effects on the body.