Understanding Hepatitis: Causes, Consequences, and Care in Singapore

21 May 2024

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, a crucial organ responsible for numerous vital functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and the production of biochemicals necessary for digestion. The inflammation can be acute or chronic and may lead to severe liver damage if not addressed properly. Here’s a comprehensive look into what hepatitis is, its causes, the risks of untreated hepatitis, statistics in Singapore, and the steps for prevention, screening, and treatment. 


What is Hepatitis? 

Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. This condition can be caused by various factors, including viral infections, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, and autoimmune diseases. The most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. 

  1. Hepatitis A: Typically spread through contaminated food and water. 
  2. Hepatitis B: Transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids, such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. 
  3. Hepatitis C: Primarily spread through direct contact with infected blood. 
  4. Hepatitis D: Occurs only in those infected with Hepatitis B. 
  5. Hepatitis E: Spread through consumption of contaminated water. 


Causes of Hepatitis 

The causes of hepatitis vary based on its type: 

  • Viral Infections: The most common cause of hepatitis globally, with Hepatitis B and C being the most severe and leading to chronic conditions. 
  • Alcohol Abuse: Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic hepatitis. 
  • Medications and Toxins: Overuse or misuse of certain medications and exposure to toxins can cause drug-induced hepatitis. 
  • Autoimmune Diseases: The body's immune system can attack liver cells, leading to autoimmune hepatitis. 


Consequences of Untreated Hepatitis 

If hepatitis is left untreated, it can lead to severe health complications: 

  • Chronic Hepatitis: Persistent inflammation over time can cause chronic hepatitis, leading to liver damage. 
  • Cirrhosis: Severe scarring of the liver, which can impair its ability to function. 
  • Liver Failure: The liver loses its ability to function entirely, which can be life-threatening. 
  • Liver Cancer: Chronic Hepatitis B and C significantly increase the risk of developing liver cancer. 


Hepatitis in Singapore: Statistics and Concerns 

Hepatitis B is a major health concern in Singapore. As of recent reports: 

  • An estimated 3.6% of the population are carriers of Hepatitis B. 
  • Hepatitis C prevalence is lower but still significant, with efforts ongoing to improve detection and treatment. 


Prevention, Screening, and Treatment 


Preventing hepatitis involves a combination of vaccination, safe practices, and lifestyle choices: 

  • Vaccination: Hepatitis A and B vaccines are highly effective. Vaccination for Hepatitis B is part of the national immunization program in Singapore. 
  • Safe Practices: Avoid sharing needles, ensure safe sex practices, and be cautious with blood transfusions and medical procedures. 
  • Hygiene: Maintain good hygiene, especially when traveling to areas with poor sanitation. 



Regular screening is crucial, especially for those at higher risk: 

  • Blood Tests: Can detect the presence of hepatitis viruses or liver damage. 
  • Liver Function Tests: Assess how well the liver is working. 
  • Imaging Tests: Ultrasounds or liver scans can help detect liver damage. 



Treatment options depend on the type and severity of hepatitis: 

  • Antiviral Medications: Effective for treating chronic Hepatitis B and C. 
  • Lifestyle Changes: Reducing alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy diet, and regular exercise can support liver health. 
  • Liver Transplant: In severe cases of liver failure, a transplant may be necessary. Singapore has seen cases where the urgency for liver transplants led to public appeals for donors. 


Locate a NEMG clinic nearest to you: https://nemg.com.sg/NEMG-Clinic-Locator



Hepatitis remains a significant health challenge, but with proper prevention, timely screening, and effective treatment, its impact can be minimized. In Singapore, ongoing public health efforts aim to reduce the incidence and improve the management of hepatitis, ensuring better outcomes for those affected. 

For more detailed information on hepatitis B and its implications in Singapore, you can read the informative articles from Today Online, AsiaOne, and The New Paper

We are always happy to help.