see also Hepatitis in Children
An infected liver; infection may be chronic and grumble on for months or years, or it may be sudden and acute, caused by Hepatitis A or B virus, or by the viruses which cause Glandular Fever and Yellow Fever, or by alcohol and certain drugs. In some cases acute episodes may lead on to chronic infection.
Onsets suddenly, although incubation time is up to 3 months; virus is spread by faecal-oral route, through contaminated food or sewage. At first, symptoms resemble those of Influenza (aching, Fever, weakness), often with Nausea and loss of appetite; as these subside, Jaundice appears and lasts for 2-3 weeks, until the liver is sufficiently recovered to remove yellow pigment (bilirubin) from blood. Person feels weak, run down, sometimes depressed, for a month or two afterwards, and may suffer further attacks, but no lasting damage is sustained by the liver.
Produces similar symptoms to hepatitis A, has a longer incubation time (3-6 months), and is potentially more serious as it can lead to acute liver failure or chronic hepatitis (see below) or Cirrhosis of the Liver. Virus is transmitted by blood (unsterilized needles used in tattooing, acupuncture, ear piercing, or drug-taking, transfusions in countries where blood screening is poor) or by body fluids (saliva, semen, vaginal secretions); a few people are carriers of the virus, though they may not know it until they donate blood.
Rare, causing fatigue, Indigestion, loss of appetite, some degree of Jaundice, and eventually Cirrhosis of the Liver. It may develop insidiously, or set in after an attack of hepatitis B, or occur in conjunction with Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's Disease. Though the root cause is thought to be an autoimmune reaction (see Autoimmune Disease), the culprit may also be large quantities of alcohol or paracetamol.
If flu-like symptoms develop after suspected exposure to hepatitis A or B, or if jaundice appears after 'flu, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 48 hours.
Virally caused so antibiotics are of no use; the liver has to be helped to heal itself, by rest, abstention from alcohol, fatty foods, and other causative or aggravating agents, and by taking plenty of fluids. In the case of chronic hepatitis, steroids may be prescribed to retard further damage to the liver. Injections of gamma globulin, which boost resistance to hepatitis A for about 6 months, are a sensible precaution if you live with a hepatitis A sufferer or travel to counties where the disease is endemic.
Homeopathic treatment of chronic hepatitis is constitutional. In cases of acute hepatitis, or while waiting for a diagnosis, the remedies below may be beneficial.
Specific remedies to be taken 4 times daily for 7 days; if symptoms do not abate, see your medical doctor or homeopath
- Symptoms come on after exposure to cold, sharp pain and tenderness in liver region, made worse by movement but alleviated by applying pressure Bryonia 30c
- Tongue dirty and yellow, breath smells bad, jaundice, smelly perspiration, great sensitivity to heat and cold, liver feels tender, especially when lying on right side Mercurius 30c
- Weak, empty, cold feeling in abdomen, craving for cold water followed by vomiting as water warms up in stomach Phosphorus 30c
- Jaundice, abdomen feels distended and constricted at same time, as if there is a string round it, pain in liver area extends to right shoulder blade Chelidonium 30c
- Liver feels swollen and tender, anything tight around waist is unbearable, abdomen distended, sensitive, and painful, and distinctly worse for heat or after sleep Lachesis 30c
- Liver feels swollen and tender, nose and throat discharging yellow, ropy catarrh Hydrastis 30c
Self-help: If hepatitis B is diagnosed, person may remain infectious for several months, so meticulous hygiene in the bathroom and kitchen is essential; lavatory, bath, and washbasin should be thoroughly disinfected after each use, and separate crockery and cutlery used. Bed rest should continue for as long as person feels weak. Plenty of fluids, especially rice water or barley water with added sugar, will help to cleanse the system. Extra Vitamin C is also recommended.