Hepatitis is a viral disease that affects millions of people, especially in America. To combat an infection, you must first spread awareness about the condition and how it can be prevented. The essential points about hepatitis that will help in the prevention and understanding of the infection are as follows:
What is Hepatitis?
In simple terms, hepatitis means chronic or acute inflammation of the liver. The prevalent cause of hepatitis is a viral infection, but chronic alcoholism, some drugs like acetaminophen, and autoimmune disorders can also cause hepatitis.
Prevalence of Hepatitis
According to the statistics given by World Health Organization, 325 million people around the globe have chronic hepatitis A or C infections. It is a pretty severe number!
Is Hepatitis Fatal?
Hepatitis can be fatal, especially the chronic forms. When the liver is inflamed for an extended period, the chances of hepatic cancer increase because inflammation provides a fertile ground for malignancy to develop. According to WHO, one million people die due to hepatic cancer, the leading cause of chronic hepatitis.
Types of Hepatitis
Five hepatitis viruses cause liver inflammation.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis D
- Hepatitis E
Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common causes of hepatitis worldwide.
The hepatitis viruses are transmitted in several ways.
- Contact with the fluids of an infected person
- Blood transfusion from an infected person
- Use of contaminated syringes
- Sharing items like razors and toothbrushes with an infected person
- Vertical transmission (mother to child during birth)
- Sexual intercourse with an infected individual
It is essential to check the blood of donors, significantly above 40, for the presence of the virus. There are various techniques available for screening. For example, hepatitis B can be screened by checking the surface antigen (HBsAg)
When to Get Tested for Hepatitis?
You should immediately consult a doctor if you start having the following symptoms:
- Jaundice; yellow discoloration of skin and sclera.
- Dark urine
- Light colored stool
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
How is The Diagnosis Formed?
Hepatitis can be diagnosed by blood tests, imaging tests, and liver biopsy. The antigens of hepatitis viruses and the antibodies formed against the antigens can also be used for diagnosis. For example, to diagnose hepatitis C the presence of anti-HCV antibodies is checked through the Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Tests which determine a past infection or latent infection are also available. Hepatitis-panel includes the following tests:
- Hepatitis A antibody, IgM
- HepB antibodies; IgM, core antibodies, surface antigen
- hepC antibodies
Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B viruses. The vaccination against hepatitis B automatically protects against hepatitis D because only the individuals infected with the hepatitis B virus can get infected with hepatitis D. You should also:
- Wash hands
- Avoid undercooked or raw meat
- Avoid usage of contaminated syringes
- Safe sex techniques
- Avoid sharing personal items
- Clean your wounds properly
High-risk populations include
- Drug abusers
- People with multiple sex partners
- Health care workers who come in contact with blood and fluids
- Living with an infected person
- Newborn whose mother had HBV
Consult your healthcare professional for regular screening if you are in any of these groups.