According to a report by the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults (20-79 years) were living with diabetes in 2017; by 2045, this will rise to 629 million. The condition which is progressive in nature can lead to many health complications, if not treated properly. Hepatitis is one such condition which can be harmful to diabetic patients.
On World Hepatitis Day, we tell you everything about hepatitis, including its types, symptoms, causes, and most importantly, the link between diabetes and hepatitis. So, read on!
What is Hepatitis?
Inflammation in the liver, hepatitis is a condition mostly caused by a virus. Although the condition can be limited to self, there are chances it can elevate into fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis virus is the most common cause of hepatitis; however, it is proved that alcohol and certain drugs can too trigger the condition.
There are five types of Hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. All these five types are harmful due to the epidemic or outbreak they can cause. Mostly, types B and C are known to cause chronic diseases in humans and can spread to hundreds of millions. Moreover, they are also said to be the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by the intake of contaminated water/food, whereas Hepatitis B, C, and D are mainly due to parenteral contact with infected body fluids. The most common way of transmission is ingestion of contaminated water, using contaminated blood/blood products such as glucometers of diabetic patients, or from mother to child during childbirth, or even by sexual contact.
Types of Hepatitis
The hepatitis virus is classified into five different types: A, B, C, D, and E, each responsible for a different type of hepatitis. From the different types, Hepatitis A is less harmful and short-term in comparison to B, C, and D, which can not only turn chronic but is very dangerous for pregnant women.
Caused by Hepatitis A virus, also known as HAV, Hepatitis A is transmitted mainly through contaminated water or food which is polluted by faeces of a person infected with Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen, containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Injection drug use, having sex with an infected partner or sharing razors with an infected person increase your risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus, which is generally transmitted when a person comes in direct contact with infected body fluids. Mostly this can happen through sexual contact or injection drug use.
Also known as delta hepatitis, Hepatitis D is one of the most dangerous types of this condition. In this condition, the hepatitis D virus (HDV) induces a serious liver disease. Hepatitis D virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. One of the rarest facts about HDV is that the condition happens only with a combination of Hepatitis B infection.
Caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), Hepatitis E is the most common condition in places with poor sanitation or where the chances of water contamination are higher. It can also be transmitted through intake of water that has faecal matter in it or is contaminated.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
Noticing the signs of chronic hepatitis, especially in hepatitis B or C, is quite challenging in the beginning. The symptoms are often noticed or appear after the liver starts getting damaged.
Although noticing the signs of acute hepatitis is comparatively easier. Some of the symptoms include:
- Symptoms that are common with flu
- Urine which is dark in colour
- Pale / loose stool
- Chronic abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
- Unexpected weight loss
- Signs of jaundice such as yellow skin and eyes
Please note since chronic hepatitis develops slowly, it becomes difficult to notice these signs at the first go.
Causes of Hepatitis
As mentioned above, the main causes of hepatitis are the hepatitis virus, each responsible for a different type of condition. However, in certain cases, some external factors can cause the condition in the body:
Alcohol and other toxins
We all know how excessive alcohol consumption can cause damage to the liver in the form of inflammation. This condition is known as alcoholic hepatitis. The alcohol a person intakes directly causes injury to the cells of the liver and over time, can permanently damage your liver. This can also lead to liver failure and cirrhosis(thickening and scarring of the liver). In some cases, excessive intake of medications can also be a cause of hepatitis.
Auto-immune system response
Just like in Type-1 diabetes, which is an auto-immune condition, certain cases of hepatitis are also caused due to the auto-immune response. An auto-immune condition is where the immune system mistakes an important part of the body, the liver, in this case, to be a harmful object and therefore attacks it. This can convert an on-going inflammation from mild to severe. In fact, this condition is more common in women in comparison to men.
Hepatitis and Diabetes
Studies have proven that diabetic patients with high sugar levels are prone to Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C when compared to non-diabetic patients. Generally, hepatitis B is transmitted from one person to another when the virus enters the body through one blood/body fluids with HVB to another body. Generally, this is caused when a diabetic shares his/her glucometer, lancet device or any other diabetic supply with an infected person. The condition can also be transmitted through sexual contact and even from a mother to her child during childbirth.
Here are the most common ways the hepatitis C virus can get inside the blood from the infected blood:
- When using the syringe for injecting drugs has been previously used by an infected person
- Using a hygiene item of an infected person such as a razor, shaving kit, etc.
- Getting a tattoo from the same needle used for an infected person and has blood within it.
Please note there is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C virus. Therefore, it becomes important to find ways to prevent the condition of risking and contracting the HCV virus in the body. Studies have suggested that HCV does have the ability to increase insulin resistance in the body. Insulin resistance is one of the primary reasons for high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Even an auto-immune condition can also increase the risk of getting Type-1 diabetes.
In the case of prediabetes, you are likely to have hepatitis C transmitted to the body, causing severe health complications. Such health complications include liver failure, thickening of the liver, also known as cirrhosis, poorer response to medication, and even chances of liver cancer. Moreover, having high sugar levels can also hamper the immune system and decrease the ability of your body to fight HCV. Maintain your sugar levels with a SMART glucometer.
Tips for Diabetic patients to prevent getting Hepatitis
Here are a few ways for diabetic patients to prevent getting hepatitis:
- Prevent yourself from sharing any of your diabetic supplies such as glucometers, lancet device, needle, etc with anyone, even your family.
- Get yourself vaccinated. It is one of the safest ways to stay away from the hepatitis virus of any kind. It is suggested to get vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccination for diabetic patients who are younger than 60 years of age. The vaccine is given as a series of three months across six months.
- Do not drink contaminated water or stay on-premises that are unclean or dirty.
- Build a strong immune system with the help of a healthy lifestyle.
World Hepatitis Day is observed on July 28th every year with an aim to raise awareness of the dangers of hepatitis and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The condition, along with diabetes can create havoc in your health life. Therefore, it is essential to stay away from the condition by following a proper treatment plan.