Most of us have heard of hepatitis somewhere or the other. However, we actually do not have a clear picture of what the disease symptoms are. In Fact, it has been stated that 95% of the patients themselves do not know that they are suffering from hepatitis.
This just leads to delayed diagnosis, and like any other disease, hepatitis also requires a quick diagnosis for better patient recovery. This article aims at highlighting the main symptoms and diagnostic procedure for viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis is basically an inflammation of the liver, which manifests as various symptoms accompanied by poor digestion. Now this inflammation of the liver can result due to multiple factors, including infectious and non- infectious ones. However, out of all the factors contributing to hepatitis, viral hepatitis is the most prevalent one.
Viral hepatitis is caused by different strains of viruses and is thus named accordingly as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and Hepatitis E.
All of these are infectious forms and can transmit from the patient to a healthy host. However, their mode of transmission and duration of infection vary. While Help and E spread via contagious food and water, hep B, C and D are transmitted via contact with the patient. Also, the duration and severity of hepatitis A and E are milder as compared to their counterparts.
While viral Hepatitis is generally curable, but it may convert into a chronic infection and lead to complications such as cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. In fact, every year, 1.4 million deaths are reported due to viral hepatitis infection, and out of them, the majority are due to Hepatitis B and C.
Timely detection can help in preventing complications and deaths due to hepatitis infection. For a better understanding, the process of diagnosis for viral hepatitis infection has been discussed below:
Diagnosing the Hepatitis Infection
Generally, it is very difficult to diagnose hepatitis infection due to the diversified and nonspecific symptoms. Also, sometimes, it may happen that symptoms are completely absent!
Urticaria, nausea, vomiting, and fever accompanied with pain in the right hypochondrium are some of the nonspecific symptoms associated with viral hepatitis infection. These symptoms are generally unrelatable and hence making diagnosing hepatitis is far from the list while jaundice is one specific symptom associated with hepatitis and is mostly linked to the viral hepatitis infection itself.
In severe conditions, the patient may feel difficulty in digestion and prolonged loss of appetite. These are clinical signs for hepatic encephalopathy. In such patients, serological testing indicates the prothrombin level reduced by up to 50%. This is indicative of severe hepatitis infection.
However, before moving onto the clinical diagnosis, the prerequisite is the identification of disease by the patient themselves, so that they opt for medical help. So, if you experience any such symptoms, then you should definitely go for medical consultation.
The physician may not simply jump on to the conclusion based on the symptoms alone. Mostly patient medical history provides a more concise picture of the disease prevalence. The chances of hepatitis are more in HIV patients, homosexual men, illegal drug users, and healthcare workers.
Taking into account the patient history, the next step is serological testing. These tests help in identifying the type of infecting virus. Every virus has some specific markers that indicate their presence. For, eg, for chronic hepatitis with Hepatitis C virus, Anti-HCV is the indicating biomarker. An elevated level of Anti- HCV indicates hepatitis C infection, and similarly, there are biomarkers available for other viruses, which also indicate the severity of the infection.
Post serological testing, a biopsy may also be conducted to check for the degree of damage to the liver.
Based on the combined reports from biopsy as well as serological testing, your physician may finalize the stage of infection and accordingly decide on the treatment regime that is necessary for you.
So overall, the process for diagnosing follows a sequential order. The first stage being the symptomatic diagnosis by the patient, followed by the clinical diagnosis to check for the virus involved with the help of specific biomarker and finally, a biopsy to identify the extent of the damage.
As mentioned before, the lack of awareness about viral hepatitis symptoms is one of the prime factors linked to the disease progression, and it’s conversion to severe stages. Thus, you need to stay aware of the symptoms and also spread this awareness to others.
Apart from that, precaution is the best way to avoid any such infection. Precautionary measures for viral hepatitis include maintaining hygiene and also vaccination. At present vaccines are available only for type A and type B hepatitis infection. These are universally accessible and have to be administered at the childhood stage. So make sure to get your children vaccinated to avoid any chance of infection at later stages.