Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver, which can progress to scarring, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. There are five types of hepatitis; A, B, C, D, and E. All types have a profoundly negative impact on the liver. Hepatitis Awareness Month happens in May and in the United States, May 19 has been designated as the National Hepatitis Testing Day. Awareness is aimed at educating the public and health workers on the need to test. Statistics indicate that millions of Americans may have chronic viral hepatitis and most are unaware that they are infected. Here are a few facts about hepatitis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
CAUSES OF HEPATITIS
A Viral infection has been identified as the main cause of hepatitis but other factors can contribute to inflammation of the liver. Damage can result from autoimmune hepatitis, which occurs when the body's antibodies begin to attack the liver, affecting its ability to function. Other factors have been categorized as secondary causes and have been linked to medication, drug use, consuming alcohol and exposure to toxins.
SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS
Hepatitis can manifest in different ways depending on the type of the disease one may be suffering from. In the case of hepatitis B and C, which are considered chronic, symptoms may not appear until the liver is damaged. With acute hepatitis, symptoms will quickly appear and they include:
• Flu-like symptoms
• Dark urine
• Abdominal pain
• Pale stool
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Signs of jaundice
DIAGNOSIS OF HEPATITIS
• Physical Examination
The diagnosis of hepatitis may begin with a physical examination by a professional healthcare provider. They will check for any pain and tenderness in the abdomen area by gently pressing down on your abdomen. The doctor will also record any observable signs of jaundice.
• Liver Biopsy
A liver biopsy involves a sample being taken from a patient's liver. The procedure is invasive but it does not require surgery, the needle is inserted through the skin. The sample is then tested to determine if there is liver damage or inflammation of the liver.
Other Tests for Hepatitis
• A blood test can be done to check for the presence of virus antibodies and antigens in the blood, which would then confirm viral hepatitis
• Liver function tests are done to check how efficiently the liver is working. If the test shows a high liver enzyme level, it means that the liver is stressed or even damaged.
• An abdominal ultrasound can show an enlarged or damaged liver.
TREATMENT OF HEPATITIS
Treatment varies with the type. Hepatitis A and E may resolve themselves on their own and one may be advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid alcohol. Hepatitis B and C are treated using antiviral medication while hepatitis D is treated with a specific medication called alpha interferon. There are also vaccinations available for hepatitis A and B both for adults and children.
It is important to be tested because if you have been infected you can get treatment, and this can potentially reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others and also put a halt to the damaging effects of the disease.
Urgent Clinics Medical Care offers testing for acute hepatitis, liver enzyme testing, as well as vaccinations for hepatitis A and B. Visit any of our convenient locations for a comprehensive testing in Pearland, Champions, The Woodlands and 3 locations in League City: Creekside, Marina Bay and Tuscan Lakes.