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Hepatitis A:Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver which manifests as jaundice and abnormal liver function tests. It is a preventable, infectious disease and is a cause of significant morbidity.

Hepatitis A: Incidence, age and sex

Hepatitis A is more commonly seen in children. However, it may occur at any age. No gender predilection has been noted.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A: Diagnosis

Hepatitis A usually presents as jaundice which is manifested by yellowing of eyes and passage of high coloured urine. This is preceded by a prodromal illness of malaise, exhaustion and low grade fever. Generally there is significant loss of appetite which is accompanied with nausea, vomiting and upper abdominal pain. Stagnation of bile in the small ducts of liver (canaliculi) may lead to intense itching all over the body.

On clinical evaluation, jaundice and enlargement of the liver may be noted. Signs of dehydration like dry eyes, dry tongue and reduced urine output may be present. On lab evaluation there is rise in bilirubin and liver enzymes. Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test which measures antibodies against the causative virus.

Causes and prevention of hepatitis A

Hepatitis A occurs as a result of viral infection. It is transmitted by intake of water or food which is contaminated by the infective virus. It is a communicable disease and may be prevented by careful attention to personal and environmental hygiene. There is a vaccine available for prevention of hepatitis A which should be administered to anybody travelling to an endemic area.

Hepatitis A: Complications

Hepatitis A is generally a self-limiting illness. However, it may cause acute complications like dehydration, malnutrition and general weakness. Rarely, it may cause fulminant hepatic failure which is a serious and potentially fatal condition.

Hepatitis A: Treatment

Hepatitis A is a self-limiting infection which usually resolves on its own. The main principles of management are adequate fluid intake, ensuring hydration, administration of drugs to control vomiting, maintaining proper nutrition and avoidance of alcohol or any drug known to damage the liver.