Even though evidence-based medicine has flourished world over during the past few decades, and medical science has gone a long way to release itself from myths, our country is yet to get over from them. There are lots of misconceptions about hepatitis in our general population. Many believe that only those who drink are at risk of developing hepatitis. Others think hepatitis is only caused by hepatitis B virus.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, commonly caused by 4 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, and E. Hepatitis A and E are usually self limiting acute illness; however, they have potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. Types B and C can lead to chronic liver disease which may progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Patients with acute hepatitis may present with jaundice, dark urine, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis are usually mild and non-specific. Even patient of advanced liver disease can have no perceptible symptoms. This happens because of a large reserve of extra liver in our body. Hepatitis is usually detected on blood investigation.
Diet & Hepatitis:
Another instance of ingrained tradition in our society is the extreme dietary restrictions in patients with hepatitis. Sitting in the outdoor clinic, I often come across patients with hepatitis who are restricted to a boiled and bland vegetarian diet. These diets are not only grossly hypocaloric, but also are tasteless for a patient who are already anorexic. Such patients often avoid turmeric, because of myth that its yellow colour may aggravate jaundice. Such dietary restrictions are often recommended by quacks, and also by several orthodox general practitioners. Notably, large populations in India seek health care from quacks. At times, patients remain hesitant to except a normal diet despite assuring them that these traditions have no medical justification. In fact, a recent study from India has found that of hepatitis patients consuming a restricted diet have longer period of hospitalization and delayed recovery. Acute hepatitis is usually a self-resolving condition and its treatment is largely supportive. They need a well balanced normal diet.
Low awareness about Hepatitis :
Finally, the awareness about hepatitis B virus infection in our society is very poor. Many of infected persons are healthy and are just carrier of inactive virus. But they have to face social avoidance by family members and coworkers for fear of contracting infection. Such fears are prevalent in our society because of fewer avenues for finding reliable information about disease transmission.