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Hepatitis : Causes
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine

Hepatitis A:
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is the most common form of acute viral hepatitis in most parts of the world. It is most prevalent in densely populated areas with poor sanitary conditions. Hepatitis A infection is most prevalent in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The virus is also extensive in Alaska where large outbreaks of hepatitis A were reported every eight to 12 years since the 1960s. The cases mainly involved youths under the age of 20.

The hepatitis A virus is most commonly spread from person to person contact, or by ingesting food, water, milk, shellfish or bodily fluids that are contaminated by hepatitis A. Risk factors for hepatitis A infection include household contacts with infected people, sexual contact with infected people, and exposure among drug users who share needles. Traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common also raises the risk for infection.

Hepatitis B:

Hepatitis B virus

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus, which can lead to lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and even death. It is also believed that liver injury can be caused by the infected person's immune response against the hepatitis B virus. The highest rate of hepatitis B infection occurs in Asia, Africa, the Amazon Basin in South America, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East. However, the disease is most prevalent in Asians. More than 75% of the 350 million people infected by the hepatitis B virus worldwide are of Asian origin because the virus is endemic in Asia where in most cases infected mothers pass it to their offspring.

In the United States more than one million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B in the US usually occurs in young adults and is most commonly spread by sexual contact with an infected person. Hepatitis B virus can also be spread from an infected mother to her baby at birth, as well as to drug users who share infected needles. Those at highest risk for contracting the infection include sexually active people, injection drug users, infants born to infected mothers, health care workers, and hemodialysis patients, who have kidney failure that requires the toxins in their blood to be removed by a machine.

Hepatitis C:
Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. Like the hepatitis B infection, it can also lead to a lifelong infection, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. About four million people in the Unites States have hepatitis C virus, and approximately 70% of those infected will progress to chronic liver disease. It is the most common reason for liver transplants in adults.

Unlike hepatitis B infection, most persons infected with the hepatitis C virus will develop a chronic infection. Only 15% of people infected with hepatitis C virus will be cleared of the virus and recover spontaneously. The remaining 85% of infected people fail to eliminate the virus within six months and progress to chronic infection.

Hepatitis C virus is primarily spread through the "parenteral route," otherwise known as the intravenous route. Parenteral transmission among injecting drug users is currently the most common mode of transmission and risk factor for contracting the hepatitis C virus in the U.S. Other potential risk factors include having a blood transfusion before 1992, because prior to that year there was no test for detecting the hepatitis C virus in donated blood. Additional risk factors include accidental exposure to a needle stick, sexual contact with infected persons, infants born to infected mothers, health care workers, and hemodialysis patients.


Click here to see physiology functions of liver in TCM

As stated earlier in the definition section, viral hepatitis shares similar symptoms with particular TCM syndromes such as jaundice, abdominal distention or hypochondria pain.

1. The cause of jaundice: occurs during the acute phase of the disease.
Over consumption of food and alcohol leads to spleen and stomach malfunction. In TCM, these organs transform food and drink into qi, and transport the qi to the lungs where it can be distributed throughout the body. When the spleen and stomach malfunction, dampness evils accumulate internally and transform into heat evils. If the evils cannot be removed, they exert negative influences on the body. When external seasonal evils such as dampness and heat attack the body at the same time, they interact with each other, become hyperactive and cause the malfunction of the triple-burner. This creates liver qi and blood stagnation, and results in bile leakage from the gall bladder, which eventually gives rise to the yellow color of skin and eyes known as jaundice.

2. The cause of abdominal distention or hypochondria pain (or chronic phase).
When the individual's immunity to illness is weak or there is retention of dampness and heat evils from being inadequately treated, the remaining evils can trigger symptoms such as poor appetite, abdominal discomfort and fatigue. Consequently under these pathological conditions, the internal organs such as the lungs, spleen and kidneys malfunction and lose their moistening and nourishing functions. As a result the flow of blood and qi becomes impaired. In severe cases of qi stagnation and blood stasis, abnormal metabolism of fluid occurs and gives rise to symptoms like ascites, an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity.

3. The cause of multiple organ failure.
Factors such as pestilential evils, also known as poisonous agents or plagues, can trigger serious contagious diseases. In TCM, these evils are characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms, strong infection potential and ability to spread rapidly. When these evils infect the body, the internal organs and qi and blood movement become seriously impaired and give rise to fatal symptoms like bleeding and convulsions.