Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
You may already know that hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. But what you may not know is the fact that it causes 1.3 million deaths annually throughout the world. In fact, almost 300 million people living with the disease are unaware of the infection.
Yes, these numbers are frightening. But, the situation can be improved simply by raising awareness. Since early detection in hepatitis can save one from complications, it is all the more important that we actively talk about the disease. Here, we will look at hepatitis E, one of the five types of hepatitis infection, and talk about everything related to it – from hepatitis E symptoms to hepatitis E diagnosis and treatment. So, keep reading and don’t forget to share the information with your friends and family.
What is Hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). It infects the liver and causes it to swell up. Unlike other severe types of hepatitis infections, hepatitis E infection is self-limiting. In most cases, it does not cause serious illness and infected people recover within 2-6 weeks. Rarely, it gets serious and causes fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure) and becomes the cause of death. However, hepatitis E infection in pregnancy and in those with weak immune systems can be dangerous.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E symptoms can vary. While some people may have no symptoms at all, in others they can be so mild that they hardly notice. However, most reported symptoms of hepatitis E, usually appearing 15-60 days after exposure to the virus are:
- Poor appetite
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Clay-colored stool
- Dark urine
- Skin rash
- Joint pain
What are the causes and risk factors of Hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E virus usually spread through the fecal-to-oral route. Most people contract it when they eat or drink contaminated food and water. It mostly happens in areas with poor water quality. Traveling or living in such areas may increase your risk. Pregnant women with the infection may even pass the virus to their baby. Although rare, the hepatitis E virus may also spread from a blood transfusion.
What are the complications of Hepatitis E?
Complications of hepatitis E infection are rare but possible; usually seen in at-risk groups. Complications include contracting a long-lasting hepatitis infection, neurological disorders, and severe liver damage which could possibly be fatal.
Most commonly pregnant women are at risk. They can even pass the infection to their unborn child. Those who take immunosuppressant drugs or have weak immune systems, a history of liver disorder, or a chronic liver condition are at a higher risk of developing hepatitis E complications.
How is Hepatitis E diagnosed?
For the diagnosis of hepatitis E, the doctor usually first enquires about the symptoms and travel history. If the risk is there, then there are a couple of blood tests which check for the presence of antibodies against the hepatitis E virus. These tests are – HEV IgM test and HEV IgG test. The presence or absence of these antibodies confirms or rule out the infection.
What is the treatment of Hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E doesn’t normally require treatment because in most cases the body clears the infection on its own. However, for a quick recovery, these recommendations are often given –
- Eat healthy foods
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Have proper rest
- And, avoid anything that can irritate the liver, like alcohol
How to prevent Hepatitis E?
It is always better to prevent the disease than to cure it. Here are some methods that can help you in hepatitis E prevention:
- Whenever traveling to areas where clean water isn’t available, make sure to use bottled water to drink, to wash fruits and vegetables, to brush teeth, or even to wash hands.
- Follow good hygiene practices. Wash your hands properly with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating anything.
- Don’t eat unpackaged and undercooked food.
These basic steps are the best way to reduce your risk of contracting the hepatitis E virus. However, if you are already noticing the above-mentioned symptoms or think that you were exposed to the virus, then it’s never too late to consult with a doctor and get a hepatitis E test done.
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