Hepatitis Symptoms and Treatment
Hepatitis is an acute inflammation of the liver cause by some infectious or toxic agent. The skin may discolor and the whites of the eye turn yellow. Usually there is some tenderness over the liver in the upper part of the abdomen. Most of these patients have fever, and many of them are very ill during the acute stages of the disease.
Various substance and organism may be responsible for hepatitis, including germs, viruses, toxic agent, such as carbon tetrachloride, chlorpromazine, and many other substances used either as medicines or in modern industry.
Infectious hepatitis often occurs in epidermics. It is caused by certain viruses which are introduced into the body mainly through contaminated food or water. Young people are most frequently affected, Epidemics of inefctious hepatitis are more common in wartime. Crowding, poor sanitation, and malnutrition all play their part in this disease. In many cases it seems to take from to six weeks for the disease to develop.
This more common type of jaundice usually begins abruptly with nausea, vomiting, fever, general weakness, and loss of appetite. The liver is tender to the touch. In more severe cases jaundice may be quite noticeable, but in milder cases there may be no jaundice. This continue for ten days to two weeks and then tens to disappear. In some cases the spleen is enlarged and there is often considerable itching in the skin, as well as intermitent diarrhea. Bile may also be seen in the urine, particularly during the early phases of the disease.
Most cases recover after six to eight weeks, but relaps are fairly common in people who go back to work soon. Those who have to subsist on a poor diet, or who use alcohol, are likely to have a longer period of illness. The patient should be under medical observation for several months even after he feels he has recovered.
Hepatitis is a highly infectious disease. The patient should be strictly isolated during the active phase. Gamma globulin may be given to those exposed to hepatitis in the hope of preventing the disease.
Keep the patient in bed as long as there is any sign of jaundice, abdominal pain, or tenderness over the liver. At least three weeks in bed is advisable. The patient may get up to go the bathroom, but otherwise should remain in bed. His diet should be rich in protien and carbohydrates, but low in fats. He should also be given vitamin B complex to help restore hist lost appetite and to help heal the liver. He should be careful not to overexert himself.
Any tendency to fever may indicate a relapse. The patient should then remain several more weeks in bed until he has made a complete recovery.